North Korea launched a ballistic missile Sunday afternoon which flew more than 500 kilometers, only one week after conducting its latest, successful ballistic missile test last Sunday, South Korea's military announced. The missile was launched at 0759 GMT from a location near Pukchang, 60 km northeast of the capital Pyongyang, an area where North Korea attempted to test-launch another missile last month but failed, South Korea's Office of Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement quoted by Yonhap.
The missile flew about 310 miles, a spokesman for Seoul’s defense ministry said, adding that authorities were analyzing the details of the test launch. Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said the missile landed outside Japan's exclusive economic zone and no damage to ships or airplanes was reported.
North Korea test-fired a new mid-to-long-range rocket, which it calls the Hwasong-12, on May 14, 2017
The launch was the 11th missile Pyongyang has fired this year according to the WSJ. North Korea last test-launched a missile from the Pukchang airfield late last month. In that case, the missile blew up minutes after launch in an apparent failed test. U.S. authorities said at the time that the missile didn’t leave North Korean territory. In contrast, Sunday’s successful test launch was further evidence of a pickup in momentum for North Korea’s missile program, coming on the heels of the testing of the country's most advanced missile yet a week earlier that surprised many North Korea missile watchers.
The latest two successful launches demonstrate the rapid progress North Korea is making as part of a drive to be able to threaten the continental U.S. with a nuclear-tipped missile.
In last Sunday's test, North Korea launched a new intermediate-range ballistic missile that it claimed was capable of carrying a large nuclear warhead. It called the missile the Hwasong-12. Independent analysts have said that, based on their calculations, the Hwasong-12 could reach the U.S. military base in Guam, more than 2,000 miles from Pyongyang. As noted previously, Victor Cha, Korea chair at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, said after the Hwasong-12 test that the successful launch “demonstrates that we have once again underestimated North Korea’s nuclear and missile capabilities.” He said the Hwasong-12 “represents a leap in ballistic missile technology.”
Sunday’s missile test was also the second since South Korea’s new President Moon Jae-in took office this month, a further test for the country’s first liberal president in nearly a decade. Moon has called for closer ties with North Korea, primarily through economic engagement. Needless to say, he was not happy and on Sunday president Moon Jae-in convened a National Security Council meeting to discuss the provocation. "North Korea fired an unidentified ballistic missile in the eastern direction at around 4:59 p.m. from the vicinity of Pukchang in Pyeongannam-do (South Pyeongan Province)," the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said in a statement.
A spokesman for the U.S. Pacific Command said it tracked the missile until it splashed down in the waters between Korea and Japan.
An official traveling with U.S. President Donald Trump in Saudi Arabia said the White House was aware that North Korea had launched what it described as a medium-range ballistic missile and noted that the missile had a shorter range than the three previous tested by North Korea.
As the WSJ adds, just hours before Sunday’s launch, North Korea warned through its state media that it would follow up the Hwasong-12 launch with more missile tests. “Many more ‘Juche weapons’ capable of striking the U.S. will be launched from this land,” North Korea’s Minju Joson newspaper said in a commentary Sunday, according to Pyongyang’s Korean Central News Agency. Juche, or self-reliance, is a reference to North Korea’s state ideology. The commentary also appeared to directly rebuke Trump’s prior vows to prevent the North from further developing its nuclear and missile capabilities.
“This is the DPRK’s answer to the Trump administration,” the Minju Joson commentary added. “The U.S. has no force to check the vigorous advance of Juche Korea.”
In Tokyo, Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe denounced the missile launch and called it a “challenge to the world.” Mr. Abe said he wanted to make North Korea a principal issue at the Group of Seven summit in Italy later this week. “I would like to send a clear message." China had no immediate comment.