North Korea has fired a ballistic missile from its Pyongsong base in South Pyongan Province, South Korean news agency Yonhap reported.
Citing South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff, Yonhap reported that a missile was launched “eastward from the vicinity of Pyongsong, South Pyongan Province, at dawn today.” Reuters reported that both South Korea and the U.S. were analyzing the missile’s trajectory in order to determine where it landed.
According to CNN, it was not immediately clear how far the missile went or whether it flew past Japan as other missiles fired earlier this year did. However, the latest report from Bloomberg states that Japan’s coast guard confirmed that the missile could fall into the East Sea, the body of water separating the Korean Peninsula from Japan.
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As reported by NBC, an unidentified South Korean official told the network South Korea has detected the missile and that it is “still traveling towards the direction to the East Sea,” and that the country is keeping a close eye on it.
Today’s firing of the ballistic missile comes after a two and a half month hiatus sporadically interrupted by engine and fuel tests. It is also the first of the many provocations expected from North Korea after it was reenlisted as a state sponsor of terrorism by U.S. President Donald Trump.
Pyongyang’s latest ballistic missile test was on Sept.15 when it fired a second missile over Japan in just two months. The missile landed in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Japan, in what experts have described as “unprecedented flight distance.” The long-range missile has a sufficient enough range to reach the U.S. military bases in Guam.
No other military officials have issued more information on the missile, and it is not yet known whether or not it landed. Despite the fact this launch came just days after Reuters reported that U.S. officials believed there was an increased possibility of a missile launch sometime this week, North Korea’s sudden demonstration of power seems to have taken the public by surprise.
According to South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff, a group of the highest-ranking military officials including the heads of the air force, army, and navy, the country launched a “precision missile strike drill” just minutes after North Korea’s missile launch. The precision missile strike carried out by the South Korean military managed to match the flight distance of the North Korean missile and is reported by CNN to have landed in the waters off the east coast of South Korea.
It is still not known what the end goal of this missile launch was. Before today’s test, Pyongyang has fired 22 missiles across 15 tests conducted since February 2017. None of the 22 missiles carried active warheads. CNN reports that U.S. officials have confirmed they have intelligence on North Korea’s missile tests and that they are convinced is continuing to develop its missiles, rocket fuel and engines, as well as targeting and guidance systems.
High-ranking military officials also stated that Pyongyang might be able to put miniaturized warheads on their missiles as early as 2018. With the latest ICBM Pyongyang tested reaching all the way to the Pacific ocean east of Japan, North Korea could develop ICBMs with nuclear warheads capable of reaching the U.S.
CNN also reported another unidentified U.S. official saying that North Korea is currently testing a more advanced version of its intercontinental ICBM, that could have a much further range than the missiles it tested earlier in July.
Apart from a brief message from a Pentagon spokesman on Tuesday saying it had detected a probable missile launch and a tweet by Sarah Sanders, the White House Press Secretary, stating that President Donald Trump had been briefed about the missile launch, no other U.S. official has come forth with a statement.
However, as none of the previous 15 tests North Korea has had this year were followed by an immediate statement from the President, we might see a similar situation with today’s launch.
In the latest update issued by the Pentagon, the missile was an ICBM launched from the Sain Ni base in North Kora. The missile reportedly traveled about 600 miles before crashing into the Sea of Japan.
Despite the long range of the missile, Pentagon stated that it did not pose an immediate threat to the U.S. or its territories or allies.