North Korea fired a suspected ballistic missile on March 24, Seoul and Tokyo said, apparently continuing a weapons testing blitz that could culminate with a major, long-range missile launch.
South Korea and the US recently warned that Pyongyang appears to be preparing to test-fire an Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) at full range for the first time since 2017.
Such testing was paused while leader Kim Jong-un embarked on high-profile negotiations with then-US president Donald Trump, but the talks collapsed in 2019 and diplomacy has been stalled since.
Despite biting international sanctions over its weapons programs, Pyongyang has doubled-down on Kim’s drive to modernise its military, and last week conducted a failed test of what analysts suspect was a new, long-range ICBM.
South Korea’s military on March 24 said it had detected “an unidentified projectile launched into the East Sea” without offering further details.
Yonhap News Agency reported that it was a “suspected long-range ballistic missile”, citing Seoul’s Joint Chiefs of Staff.
A spokesman at Tokyo’s defence ministry told AFP that “an object that could be a ballistic missile was launched from North Korea”, with Japan’s coastguard issuing emergency warnings to vessels in the area.
“Pyongyang attempted to fire an ICBM at the Sunan airport last week but failed,” Go Myong-hyun, senior researcher at the Asan Institute for Policy Studies, told AFP.
“So it carried out today’s launch to make up for that failure and because it has to complete the ICBM technology right away.”