North Korea fires two medium range ballistic missiles 300 miles off its east coast into Sea of Japan in record year for test launches
- North Korea fired two ballistic missiles towards the Sea of Japan on Sunday
- It is the 35th day this year that North Korea has conducted missile tests this year
- The missiles were fired between 11.13am and 12.05pm, flying around 311 miles
North Korea has fired two ballistic missiles towards Japan, in what has been a record year for launches by Kim Jong-Un’s regime as military tensions intensify.
Seoul’s military said North Korea fired two medium-range missiles on Sunday, just days after successfully testing its latest weapon system in steps to advance its nuclear and missiles programmes.
The new weapon, powered by a solid-fuel motor for a new weapons system, is believed to be more stable, helping missiles being launched more reliably and with almost no warning or preparation time.
Today’s blitz is the 35th day this year that North Korea has conducted missile tests.
North Korea has fired to ballistic missiles towards Japan, in what has been a record year for launches by Kim Jong-Un’s regime as military tensions intensify
The country’s last known missile test was on November 18, when it launched a Hwasong-17 ICBM.
South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said it detected two medium-range ballistic missiles that had been fired from the Tongchang-ri area in North Pyongan province.
The missiles were fired between 11.13am and 12.05pm local time into the Sea of Japan, flying around 500 kilometres (311 miles) at a ‘lofted’ trajectory.
Japanese officials reported that no one was hurt, and no ships were damaged when the missiles fell into the water between the Korean Peninsula and Japan.
Japanese Vice Defence Minister Toshiro Ino said the missiles flew at a maximum altitude 340 miles and accused North Korea of threatening the safety of those in Japan.
A man watching TV broadcast of a news report of North Korea firing a ballistic missile off its east coast, in Seoul, South Korea on December 18
South Korean and US intelligence are now analysing the launch ‘in consideration of recent trends related to North Korea’s missile development’.
South Korea’s military ‘strongly’ condemned today’s launch, calling it a ‘serious provocation’ and a ‘clear violation’ of the UN Security Council resolutions.
A spokesperson added: ‘Out military will maintain a firm readiness posture based on the ability to carry out an overwhelming response to any provocations by North Korea.’
Cheong Seong-chang, a researcher at the Sejong Institute, said: ‘Given that the missiles launched today are medium-range ballistic missiles, it is assessed to be test-firings of a new ballistic missile equipped with the solid-fuel engine tested on December 15.’
State media photos showed the daughter, believed to be Kim’s second child named Ju Ae and about nine or ten years old, observing the North’s intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) launch with her parents
North Korean state media described the solid-fuel motor as an important test ‘for the development of another new-type strategic weapon system’.
Despite heavy international sanctions over its weapons programme, Pyongyang has built up an arsenal of intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs).
All its known ICBMs are liquid-fuelled, however, and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has placed strategic priority on developing solid-fuel engines for more advanced missiles.
Liquid-fuel rockets are notoriously difficult to operate and take a long time to prepare for launch, making them slower and easier for the enemy to spot and destroy.
The missiles were fired between 11.13am and 12.05pm local time into the Sea of Japan, flying around 500 kilometres (311 miles) at a ‘lofted’ trajectory, according to officials from South Korea
The more mobile solid-fuel missiles have a much shorter prep time, and are harder to detect before launch.
A wish-list Kim revealed last year included solid-fuel ICBMs that could be launched from land or submarines.
The latest motor test was a step towards that goal, but it is not clear how far North Korea has come in the development of such a missile, analysts said.
Last month Kim revealed his daughter to the world for the first time ever in November as he attended a launch of a new intercontinental ballistic missile on a family day out.
State media photos showed the daughter, believed to be Kim’s second child named Ju Ae and about nine or ten years old, observing the North’s intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) launch with her parents.
Kim was pictured walking hand-in-hand with his daughter, believed to be nine or ten years old, past a huge missile loaded on a launch truck
She was then photographed walking hand-in-hand with her father, walking past a huge missile loaded on a launch truck and watching a soaring weapon.
It prompted a deepening the debate over whether she’s being primed as a successor.
The isolated country’s policy direction for next year will be laid out at a key party meeting later this month, following reports from the official Korean Central News Agency of Kim saying that 2023 would be a ‘historic year’.
In past years, Kim had delivered a speech every January 1, but he recently dropped the tradition in favour of making announcements at the year-end plenary meeting.
In his most recent address to the meeting, which was released to the public last New Year’s Day, Kim focused on domestic affairs.
Experts say while Kim refrained from directly addressing the United States last year, he could change his tone this time around.
Kim said this year that he wants North Korea to have the world’s most powerful nuclear force and declared his country an ‘irreversible’ nuclear state.
The United States and South Korea have warned for months that the North is preparing to conduct its seventh nuclear test.
North Korea is under multiple UN Security Council sanctions over its nuclear and missile activity since 2006.
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