North Korea apparently fires long-range ballistic missile, South Korea says

SEOUL, South Korea (CNN) — North Korea fired what appears to be a long-range ballistic missile from the Pyongyang region into waters off its east coast, South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said on Wednesday.

The Japanese Coast Guard said the missile was launched at 9:59 a.m. local time, traveled about 1,000 km and landed in the sea between the Korean Peninsula and Japan at around 11:13 a.m. South Korea and the United States are discussing the details of the release.

The launch comes after Pyongyang threatened earlier this week to shoot down US military reconnaissance planes flying over nearby East Sea waters.

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida on Wednesday condemned North Korea’s latest missile launch on the sidelines of the NATO summit, calling it “unacceptable” and a threat to regional stability and the international community.

Kishida told reporters that North Korea has repeatedly fired warhead missiles, including intercontinental ballistic missiles, since the start of this year.

South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol said he would call for “strong international solidarity” at the NATO summit in response to North Korea’s launch, according to Yoon’s office.

Yoon, who is in Lithuania for the NATO summit, chaired an emergency meeting of his National Security Council on Wednesday morning in response to the North Korean missile launch, Yoon’s press office said in a statement. communicated.

Kim Yo Jong, a senior North Korean official and sister of leader Kim Jong Un, accused a US spy plane of entering the country’s exclusive economic zone at least eight times on Monday, according to a statement released by the agency on Tuesday. of state. KCNA outlet. .

“In the event of repeated unlawful intrusion, US forces will experience a very critical leak,” Kim warned in the statement.

The missile launch and heated rhetoric, while not unusual in Pyongyang, comes amid heightened tensions as Washington and Seoul step up defense cooperation and the leaders of South Korea, Japan and the United States meet. They are in Lithuania for a NATO summit, where North Korea was part of the agenda.

A statement from Tuesday’s NATO meeting urged North Korea to abandon its ballistic missile and nuclear weapons programs, which violate United Nations Security Council resolutions banning them.

“We call on (North Korea) to accept the repeated offers of dialogue made by all parties concerned, including Japan, the United States and the Republic of Korea,” the statement said.

But North Korea has given no sign that it is willing to enter into negotiations with Washington or Seoul.

“Kim Yo-jong’s belligerent statement against US surveillance planes is part of a North Korean pattern of inflating external threats to rally domestic support and justify weapons testing,” Leif-Eric Easley said. , Associate Professor of International Studies at Ewha Womans University in Seoul. .

“Pyongyang is also planning its shows of force to disrupt what it perceives as diplomatic coordination against it, in this case, the meeting of the leaders of South Korea and Japan at the NATO summit,” he said. Easley.

Some experts say North Korea likely tested its Hwasong-18 mobile ICBM, a type of solid-fueled weapon that is harder to detect and intercept than North Korea’s other liquid-fueled ICBMs. North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has previously called the Hwasong-18 the most powerful nuclear weapon, although there is no evidence that the missile can successfully deliver a nuclear payload.

“North Korea’s launch appears to be its second test of the Hwasong-18 ICBM, which was first fired on April 13,” said Kim Dong-yub, a professor at the University of North Korea Studies. Seoul Koreans.

Last month, tens of thousands of North Koreans marched in anti-US rallies in Pyongyang, marking the 73rd anniversary of the start of the Korean War. The participants denounced the United States as “a destroyer of peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula” and warned against nuclear war, according to KCNA.

Meanwhile, South Korea, the United States and Japan have held joint, trilateral military exercises aimed at deterring any military threat from North Korea.

CNN’s Junko Fukutome contributed to this report.

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