North Korea launches long-range missile amid NATO summit

North Korea has launched a Hwasong-18 ballistic missile off its eastern coast. The provocation follows two days of bellicose Pyongyang rhetoric aimed at the US

North Korea launches long-range missile amid NATO summit (photo: DW)
North Korea launches long-range missile amid NATO summit (photo: DW)


North Korea fired its first intercontinental ballistic missile in three months on Wednesday morning.

"North Korea fired an unidentified ballistic missile into the East Sea," South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff said, referring to the body of water also known as the Sea of Japan.

Japan's Coast Guard and Defense Ministry made similar statements. 

The Japanese Coast Guard said the missile appeared likely to land about 550 kilometers (roughly 340 miles) east of the Korean peninsula at around 11:13 a.m. local time (0213 UTC).

The missile flew about 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) for 74 minutes — its longest-ever flight time — to an altitude of 6,000 km and a range of 1,000 km, TV Asahi reported, citing a Japanese defense official.

Experts quickly surmised the missile launched was likely North Korea's developmental, road-mobile Hwasong-18 ICBM. 

The missile is a type of solid-fuel weapon that is far more mobile to transport and launch than liquid-fueled ICBMs, thus making it harder to detect and intercept them via satellite. 

North Korean state media reported early on Thursday local time that the missile was indeed a Hwasong-18. According to KCNA, Kim Jong Un personally observed the launch. 

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un previously called the Hwasong-18 his most powerful weapon.

Japan, South Korea spring into action

Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno said a summit was planned with South Korea, Australia and New Zealand.

"We will respond in close cooperation with the international community," he said, adding that Japan has protested through diplomatic channels in Beijing.

Matsuno said the launch threatened peace and stability in the region and that Tokyo had lodged a protest through diplomatic channels in Beijing.

Meanwhile, South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol, who was in Lithuania for a NATO summit, held an emergency national security council meeting to discuss the missile launch and vowed to use the summit to call for strong international solidarity to confront such threats.

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, who is also in Lithuania for the NATO leaders' meeting, ordered his staff to gather information and stay alert to prepare for unpredicted events, according to the prime minister's office.

Germany's foreign ministry also strongly condemned the missile launch, calling it "illegal" and a threat to international peace and security.

"We call on the DPRK (North Korea) to fully comply with its obligations under Security Council resolutions," the ministry said on Twitter.

North Korea criticizes alleged US surveillance

The developments follow two days of critical comments from North Korea aimed at the United States. Pyongyang complained of supposed US aerial reconnaissance flights over its territory. The reclusive regime leader Kim Jong Un's influential sister Kim Yo Jong had also spoken about the issue, threatening reprisals.

North Korea also recently tried and failed to launch a spy satellite, whose wreckage Seoul has been analyzing. 

International sanctions prohibit Pyongyang from testing ballistic missiles and launching satellites, but it has been flouting such restrictions for years, and with increased regularity more recently. 

Follow us on: Facebook, Twitter, Google News, Instagram 

Join our official telegram channel (@nationalherald) and stay updated with the latest headlines