North Korea fired an intercontinental ballistic missile Friday in one of its most powerful tests ever, with Japan saying the weapon may have had the range to hit the United States mainland.
The missile was believed to have landed in Japan’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ), Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said as he blasted the launch as “absolutely unacceptable”.
The launch is Pyongyang’s second in two days and part of a record-breaking blitz in recent weeks, which North Korea — and some allies including Moscow — blame on the US boosting regional security cooperation, including joint military exercises.
The missile flew 1,000 km (621 miles) at an altitude of 6,100 km, South Korea’s military said, only slightly less than the ICBM Pyongyang fired on March 24, which appeared to be the North’s most powerful such test yet.
Later on Friday, Tokyo and Washington held joint military drills in the airspace over the Sea of Japan.
“Japan Self-Defense Forces and US armed forces conducted a bilateral exercise… amid an increasingly severe security environment surrounding Japan,” a joint staff statement distributed by the Japanese defence ministry said.
“This bilateral exercise reaffirms the strong will between Japan and the United States to respond to any situation.”
US Vice President Kamala Harris convened a meeting on the sidelines of an Asia-Pacific summit in Bangkok to discuss the launch with regional leaders.
“We strongly condemn these actions and we again call for North Korea to stop further unlawful, destabilising acts,” Harris said.
North Korea, led by Kim Jong Un, has fired scores of ballistic missiles this year — far more than any other year on record — and recent launches have been increasingly provocative, including firing a missile over Japan last month, triggering a rare air-raid warning.
On November 2, Pyongyang fired 23 missiles, including one which crossed the de facto maritime border and landed near the South’s territorial waters for the first time since the end of hostilities in the Korean War in 1953. Seoul called it “effectively a territorial invasion”.
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