North Korea confirmed Monday it test-launched an intermediate-range ballistic missile capable of reaching the US territory of Guam, in what looks to be the North's most significant weapon launch since 2017. The official Korean Central News Agency said the purpose of the test was verifying the overall accuracy of the Hwasong-12 missile that is being deployed in its military. KCNA published two sets of combination photos: one showing the missile rising from a launcher and soaring into space and the other showing North Korea and nearby areas that it said were photographed from space by a camera installed at the missile’s warhead, reports the AP.
Lee Choon Geun, a missile expert and honorary research fellow at South Korea’s Science and Technology Policy Institute, said he thinks the photos were taken from space—especially when the missile was soaring to its apogee, though he cannot independently prove there was no adjustment on the images. While it’s rare to place a camera on a weapon, Lee said North Korea likely wanted to demonstrate its technological advancement to both foreign and domestic audiences.
North Korea said the missile was launched toward waters off its east coast on a high angle to prevent flying over other countries. It gave no further details. According to South Korean and Japanese assessments, the missile flew about 500 miles and reached a maximum altitude of about 1,250 miles before landing between the Korean Peninsula and Japan. The Hwasong-12 missile is a nuclear-capable ground-to-ground weapon with a maximum range of 2,800 miles when it’s fired on a standard trajectory. It’s a distance sufficient to reach Guam, home to US military bases that in past times of tensions sent advanced warplanes to the Korean Peninsula in shows of force.
The Biden administration plans to respond to the latest missile test in the coming days with an unspecified move meant to demonstrate to the North that the US government is committed to allies’ security in the region, according to a senior administration official who briefed reporters on the condition of anonymity. The official said the administration viewed Sunday’s missile test as the latest in a series of provocations to try to win sanctions relief from the US. The Biden administration again called on North Korea to return to talks but made clear it doesn’t see the sort of leader-to-leader summits former President Trump held with Kim as constructive at this time.
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