SEOUL, March 16 (Reuters) – North Korea launched a suspected intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) into the sea between the Korean peninsula and Japan on Thursday, hours before the South Korean president was due to travel to Tokyo for a summit supposed to discuss ways to counter the North with nuclear weapons.
North Korea has carried out several missile launches this week as part of joint military exercises between South Korea and the United States that Pyongyang condemns as hostile actions.
The missile, fired at 07:10 a.m. (2210 GMT Wednesday) from Pyongyang, traveled about 1,000 kilometers on a high trajectory, South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said.
The Japanese Ministry of Defense said the ICBM-like projectile appeared to have flown more than 6,000 km for about 70 minutes.
It most likely landed outside Japan’s exclusive economic zones, 200 km west of Oshima-Oshima Island in Hokkaido, northern Japan, the ministry said.
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Japan has not confirmed any information about damage caused by the missile, Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno said, adding that he had protested through the North Korean Embassy in Beijing.
“North Korea’s missile launch is a barbaric act that escalates its provocation to the entire international society,” Matsuno said. “We will confirm close cooperation with South Korea and the United States toward the complete denuclearization of North Korea at today’s Japan-South Korea summit.”
South Korea called a meeting of the National Security Council and “strongly condemned” the launch of the missile as a serious act of provocation threatening international peace.
South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol has ordered his country’s military to conduct drills with the United States as planned, saying North Korea will pay for its “reckless provocations”, according to his office.
South Korean and U.S. forces on Monday began 11 days of joint exercises, dubbed “Freedom Shield 23,” staged on a scale not seen since 2017 to counter growing threats from the North. North Korea has long bristled at allied exercises as a rehearsal for the invasion.
Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said Japan would also hold a National Security Council meeting during the launch.
“Regional peace and stability is the most important issue for the nations concerned,” Kishida told reporters. “We must establish closer cooperation with all allies and friendly nations.”
Yoon is heading to Japan for the first such summit with Kishida in more than a decade, as part of an effort to bridge historical, political and economic differences in the name of better cooperation to counter South Korea. North and other challenges.
As part of these efforts, the two US allies agreed to share real-time tracking of North Korean missile launches and pledged to further deepen military cooperation.
Nuclear-armed North Korea fired an unprecedented number of missiles last year, including ICBMs that can reach the United States, while resuming preparations for its first nuclear test since 2017.
North Korea’s ballistic missile and nuclear weapons programs are banned by UN Security Council resolutions, but Pyongyang says weapons development is needed to counter ‘hostile policies’ by Washington and of his allies.
North Korean state news agency KCNA said on Sunday that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un led a ruling party meeting to discuss and decide on “important practical war deterrents”, saying that ” the provocations of the United States and South Korea are reaching the red line”. “
Reporting by Hyunsu Yim, Josh Smith, Soo-hyang Choi and Ju-min Park in Seoul, Kantaro Komiya and Kaori Kaneko in Tokyo; Editing by Sandra Maler and Gerry Doyle
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