North Korea ramped up its recent bevy of weapons tests on Jan. 30, firing what analysts say is the most powerful missile the isolated regime has tested in five years.
Pyongyang’s seventh launch of January 2022 traveled 1,242 miles upward and landed in the ocean about 500 miles away, according to officials of the Japanese and South Korean governments. No damage or injuries were reported.
South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff told South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency that it detected the missile, which was fired at a steep angle from Jagang Province, North Korea, at about 7:52 a.m. local time. The military body also confirmed the distance and height that the projectile flew, while noting that the missile hit a top speed of Mach 16, or 16 times the speed of sound.
“Our military is tracking and monitoring related North Korean movements and maintaining a readiness posture,” the Joint Chiefs of Staff told reporters.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in said Pyongyang may have broken North Korea’s 2018 pledge to stop testing long-range missiles and nuclear devices.
Arguing that the Jan. 30 test violated U.N. Security Council resolutions, Moon said the move is a “challenge toward the international society’s efforts to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula, stabilize peace, and find a diplomatic solution” to the nuclear impasse between North Korea and the rest of the world.
The regime of Kim Jong Un “should stop its actions that create tensions and pressure and respond to the dialogue offers by the international community, including South Korea and the United States,” Moon said.
The U.S. Indo-Pacific Command has condemned the launch.
“We have assessed that this event does not pose an immediate threat to U.S. personnel, territory, or that of our allies,” the command stated. “We will continue to monitor the situation.”
The test was North Korea’s seventh round of launches this month. The unusual frequency of tests indicates its intent to pressure the Biden administration over long-stalled nuclear negotiations as pandemic-related difficulties put further stress on an economy broken by decades of mismanagement and crippling U.S.-led sanctions over its nuclear weapons program.
Japanese Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi told reporters that the missile was the longest-range projectile that North Korea has tested since its Hwasong-15 ICBM in November 2017.
Kim announced in 2021 a new five-year plan for developing weapons and issued an ambitious wish list that includes hypersonic weapons, spy satellites, solid-fuel intercontinental ballistic missiles, and submarine-launched nuclear missiles.
State media outlets reported on Jan. 28 that Kim visited an unspecified munitions factory producing a “major weapons system” and that the workers pledged loyalty to their leader who “smashes with his bold pluck the challenges of U.S. imperialists and their vassal forces.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.