Seoul, South Korea – North Korea fired at least one alleged ballistic missile towards the sea on Thursday, the military of its neighbors said, clearly expanding a flurry of weapons tests which may now include the flight of an intercontinental ballistic missile.

The Reuters news agency quoted South Korean news agency Yonhap as saying that the Joint Chiefs of Staff of South Korea believed the projectile was a long-range missile, possibly an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) aimed at a “raised” trajectory.

The Joint Chiefs of Staff of South Korea did not say how far it flew. In the office of the Prime Minister of Japan, the Ministry of Defense said that during the launch, a ballistic missile may have been launched, and the Coast Guard issued a warning to ships passing nearby.

It was North Korea’s 12th round of arms launches this year and came after it fired alleged artillery shells into the sea on Sunday.

Experts say the unusually fast pace of the North’s tests underscores its dual goal of advancing arms and putting pressure on Washington to deepen the freeze on nuclear talks.

PHOTO FILE: North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at a meeting of the Politburo of the ruling Workers' Party in Pyongyang
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at a meeting of the Politburo of the ruling Workers’ Party in Pyongyang, North Korea, on January 19, 2022 in a photo published by the North Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).

KCNA via Reuters

The North has also tested many new missiles, including alleged hypersonic weapons and the first launch of a medium-range missile since 2017, potentially capable of reaching Guam, a key U.S. military center in the Pacific.

He also conducted two medium-range tests in the area of ​​his capital in recent weeks, which the U.S. and South Korean military later assessed as involving components of the north-largest ICBM, Hwasong-17, which they said could be tested at full range in the near future. time.

North Korean official media insisted that the two tests were aimed at developing cameras and other systems for the spy satellite. Analysts say the North is clearly trying to simultaneously resume ICBM tests and acquire a certain level of space reconnaissance under the guise of a space launch to reduce the international response to these steps.

Perhaps the launch could take place in April on a significant political anniversary, the birthday of state founder Kim Il Sung, the late grandfather of current leader Kim Jong Un.

Previous North’s ICBMs have demonstrated the potential to reach the U.S. homeland during three flight tests in 2017. The development of the larger Hwasong-17, which was first shown at a military parade in October 2020, may indicate an intention to arm it with several warheads to flood missile defenses, experts say.

Analysts say North Korea’s many weapons tests this year, amid a long stalemate in diplomacy, reflect a determination to consolidate its nuclear power status and seek much-needed economic concessions from Washington and other rivals from a position of strength.

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