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North Korea released photos after what it says was a successful ballistic missile test. It is the seventh launch this year, making January the busiest ever for the country's missile program.
North Korea confirmed on Monday it had tested a Hwasong-12 "mid-range ballistic missile" on Sunday, according to state news agency KCNA, and released photos purporting to show a successful test launch.
North Korea said the missile was launched toward the waters off its east coast and on a high angle to prevent it from flying over other countries.
KCNA reported that the purpose of the test was to verify the overall accuracy of the missile.
The South Korean and Japanese government were the first to report North Korea's test Sunday.
South Korea's joint chiefs of staff reported that a projectile believed to be a single missile was launched at around 7:52 a.m. local time (2252 UTC) from North Korea's northern Jagang province.
Later on Sunday, the joint chiefs of staff reported that the projectile had been identified as a medium-range missile that had flown 800 kilometers (circa 500 miles) toward the open sea, reaching a maximum altitude of 2,000 kilometers.
The Hwasong-12 is a nuclear-capable ground-to-ground missile. It has a maximum range of 4,500 kilometers if fired on a standard trajectory.
The reported flight details make it the most powerful missile North Korea has tested since 2017, when the country launched Hwasong-12 and longer-range missiles.
Japan's defense ministry and prime minister's office said the weapon was possibly a ballistic missile.
Japan's coast guard issued a maritime safety warning, but there were no immediate reports of damage to boats or aircraft.
North Korea has intensified weapons testing recently in the face of stalled diplomacy with the United States.
Sunday's weapons test was North Korea's seventh this year.
North Korea fired two short-range ballistic missiles into the sea on Thursday.
In a ruling party meeting chaired by Kim Jong Un on January 20, North Korean officials discussed resuming nuclear and long-range missile tests. North Korea has been observing a self-imposed moratorium on these tests since 2017.
In a ruling party meeting, North Korean officials discussed resuming nuclear and long-range missile tests
North Korea also flight-tested two purported long-range cruise missiles on Tuesday, which it is not barred from testing by United Nations sanctions.
Leif-Eric Easley, a professor at Ewha University in Seoul, told the AP news agency, "North Korea is launching a frenzy of missiles before the start of the Beijing Olympics, mostly as military modernization efforts."
"It wants to remind Washington and Seoul that trying to topple it would be too costly," he added.
The US called on North Korea to refrain from further destabilizing acts, the US Indo-Pacific Command said in a statement.
The statement said the command assessed that the test did not pose an immediate threat to US territory, personnel or allies.
South Korea's national security council condemned the launch as a violation of the resolutions and a challenge to international peace efforts.
Japanese government spokesperson Hirokazu Matsuno said, "The ballistic missile launch and the ones before it are a threat to our country, the region and the international community."
"This series of launches violate UN resolutions and we strongly protest this action by North Korea," Matsuno added.
sdi/wd (AFP, Reuters, AP)