The G7 countries on Saturday denounced the "irresponsible behavior" of North Korea, which fired an intercontinental ballistic missile, which would have fallen in the Japanese Exclusive Economic Zone, according to Tokyo, a few days before a joint military simulation exercise between Washington and Seoul.
Pyongyang "fired an ICBM-class ballistic missile towards the east. It flew for approximately 66 minutes" and covered a distance of about 900 km, Japanese government spokesman Hirokazu Matsuno told reporters.
The flight time is similar to that of the ICBM Hwasong-17, which Pyongyang had tested in November, according to the South Korean specialized site NK News.
This new missile launch could be a second test of the Hwasong-17, but could also be a test "of the solid-fuel ICBM that Pyongyang is developing and which so far has never been seen. “, explained to AFP Joseph Dempsey, researcher at the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS).
This shooting was strongly condemned on Saturday by the White House and the G7 countries.
"This firing unnecessarily escalates tensions and risks destabilizing security in the region," said White House National Security Council spokeswoman Adrienne Watson. "It constitutes a flagrant violation of multiple UN Security Council resolutions."
After meeting at the annual security conference in Munich, G7 foreign ministers said "North Korea's irresponsible behavior demands a unified response from the community. international community, including important new steps taken by the United Nations Security Council".
The G7 countries - the United States, Germany, Japan, France, Italy, Great Britain and Canada - "condemn in the strongest terms" this shooting which "constitutes a flagrant violation of the resolutions of the Security Council (...) and threatens regional and international peace and security".
North Korea has long been trying to develop a solid-fuel ICBM. These missiles are indeed easier to store and transport, demonstrate better stability and are quicker to prepare for launch, which makes it more difficult for them to be detected, as well as their preventive destruction by American forces.
Japanese Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada said the missile appeared to have a flight capability of 14,000 km - which would allow it to reach the mainland United States.
The South Korean military had earlier announced the missile launch, saying the country was maintaining "full state of readiness while cooperating closely with the United States and strengthening surveillance and vigilance."
The launch is "a further escalation in North Korea's efforts to hone its long-range strike capabilities," retired South Korean general Chun In-bum told AFP. "North Korea's message is clear: we are making steady progress toward our goal of perfecting long-range nuclear weapons."
Military tensions rose on the Korean peninsula in 2022, when Pyongyang called its status as a nuclear power "irreversible" and conducted a record series of weapons tests, including ICBMs.
In response to its northern neighbour, Seoul conducted joint military maneuvers with the United States, its key security ally, as a means for it to convince South Korean public opinion of the American commitment to deter Pyongyang from any attack.
Saturday's firing, the first in seven weeks, comes as the two allies prepare to conduct a simulation exercise, to be held next week in Washington, to discuss measures to be taken in the event of a use of nuclear weapons by Pyongyang.
North Korea threatened on Friday to react with "unprecedented" force to the upcoming US-South Korean maneuvers, seeing them as preparations for an armed conflict.
For An Chan-il, a researcher at the head of the World Institute for North Korean Studies, this latest shot indicates that the leader of Pyongyang Kim Jong Un “has finally drawn his sword”.
South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol, who took office in May 2022 promising to be tough on Pyongyang, has dramatically stepped up military exercises with the United States.
Seoul on Thursday called Pyongyang an "enemy" in a defense document, a term it used for the first time in six years, signaling a further hardening of its stance on North Korea.
During Pyongyang's weapons tests last year, a missile landed south of the de facto maritime border line near South Korean territorial waters for the first time since the end of the Korean War in 1953.
18/02/2023 17:31:27 - Seoul (AFP) © 2023 AFP