North Korea Launches Missile Just Hours Before South Korea-Japan Summit
North Korea launched an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) on Thursday, just hours before the first summit between South Korea and Japan in more than a decade, where leaders of the two countries were expected to discuss deepening military coordination in response to the growing threat from Pyongyang. According to Japanese officials, the missile flew for about 69 minutes and traveled about 1,000 kilometers at a maximum altitude of over 6,000 km before falling outside its exclusive economic zone some 250 kilometers west of Oshima island, off Hokkaido, into the Sea of Japan at around 8.18 am local time (23:18 GMT on Wednesday).
The launch came as South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol headed to Tokyo for a summit with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida in the neighbors' first bilateral visit in 12 years. The visit is aimed at improving bilateral ties that have been hampered by historical disputes related to Japan’s 1910-1945 occupation of the Korean peninsula.
The US has expressed its strong condemnation of North Korea's recent ballistic missile test. In a statement, Adrienne Watson, spokesperson for the White House National Security Council, asserted that such actions unnecessarily increase tensions in the region. Japan’s Ministry of Defense also reported the launch, saying that the missile flew for 70 minutes and reached a maximum altitude of over 3,700 miles before landing in the sea roughly 125 miles west of Oshima Island off of Hokkaido, outside of the country's exclusive economic zone.
In 2022, North Korea launched more than 90 missiles, a record high for the nation, in spite of being faced with a multitude of sanctions from the UN, US, EU, as well as its neighbouring states. The missiles flew in close proximity to South Korea and Japan, leading to warnings to take shelter and air raid alerts.
On Thursday, NHK reported that Kishida stated that he could not give an opinion on North Korea's goals, but he thought keeping peace and order in the area was a major issue and that Japan must cooperate with other allies and nations with similar views.
No damage has been reported by Japanese officials after the missile landed approximately 250 kilometers west of Oshima Island, located in Hokkaido Prefecture, according to Japanese broadcaster NHK.
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