North Korea has launched its longest-range missile test since 2017 despite American warnings that the country could be subjected to more sanctions.
The missile was launched on Sunday from the North Korean province of Jagang, which borders China, and flew across the North before falling into the sea off the country’s east coast, both the South Korean and Japanese governments reported.
Japanese officials said the missile, based on their initial assessment of its flight path, potentially reached a maximum altitude of 2,000 kilometers (1,242 miles) and traveled 800 kilometers (497 miles) before landing in the sea.
The test was North Korea's sixth ballistic missile launch in 2022 and seventh missile test overall.
The North also flight-tested a pair of purported long-range cruise missiles on Tuesday while vowing to strengthen its nuclear “war deterrent” and build more powerful weapons.
The last time North Korea lunched a medium-range ballistic missile was in October, 2019, when it tested the Pukguksong-3, a submarine-launched ballistic missile.
South Korea warned that Pyongyang could soon restart nuclear and intercontinental missile tests.
In a statement following an emergency meeting of Seoul’s National Security Council, South Korean President Moon Jae-in said that North Korea “has come close to destroying the moratorium declaration.”
Moon described the North’s latest tests as a violation of UN Security Council resolutions and a “challenge toward the international society’s efforts to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula, stabilize peace and find a diplomatic solution” to the nuclear standoff.
The North “should stop its actions that create tensions and pressure and respond to the dialogue offers by the international community including South Korea and the United States,” Moon said, according to his office.
Last year, North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un announced a new five-year plan for developing weapons and issued an ambitious wish list that included hypersonic weapons, spy satellites, solid-fuel intercontinental ballistic missiles and submarine-launched nuclear missiles.
Kim has concentrated on expanding his country's nuclear and missile capabilities since his diplomacy with US former president Donald Trump ended without an agreement in 2019. He has rebuffed the Biden administration’s repeated offers over nuclear negotiations.
Washington imposed new sanctions in response and asked the United Nations Security Council to impose more sanctions on North Korea for its recent ballistic missile tests which promoted Pyongyang to double down on weapons testing with impunity.
Washington asked the United Nations Security Council to impose more sanctions on North Korea for the recent tests, but both Beijing and Moscow vetoed the move.
Domestically, North Korea is preparing to celebrate the 80th anniversary of the birth of late leader Kim Jong Il in February, as well as the 110th birthday of founder Kim Il Sung in April.
“North Korea is launching a frenzy of missiles before the start of the Beijing Olympics, mostly as military modernization efforts. Pyongyang also wants to boost national pride as it gears up to celebrate political anniversaries in the context of economic struggles,” said Leif-Eric Easley, a professor at Ewha University in Seoul.
“It wants to remind Washington and Seoul that trying to topple it would be too costly,” Easley added.
North Korea’s state news agency KCNA said Kim visited an unspecified munitions factory on Friday that produces “a major weapon system” and that the workers pledged loyalty to their leader who “smashes with his bold pluck the challenges of US imperialists and their vassal forces.”