North Korea has confirmed that it test-fired a Hwasong-12 intermediate-range ballistic missile on Jan. 30, its state-run media reported, as Washington is urging Pyongyang to engage in direct talks with no preconditions.
Pyongyang conducted its seventh missile test this month, the largest number in a single month since 2019. South Korea and Japan claimed that the projectile traveled 1,242 miles upward and landed in the ocean about 500 miles away.
The missile was fired from Pyongyang’s Jagang Province at approximately 7:52 a.m. local time and traveled at speeds of up to 16 times the speed of sound, South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said.
The Hwasong-12 ground-to-ground intermediate and long-range ballistic missile was launched for evaluation and verification of “the overall accuracy of the weapon system,” state media Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported.
KCNA claimed that the test was conducted at “the highest angle firing system” to ensure the security of the neighboring countries, with the test warhead being equipped with a camera to capture images of the earth from space.
The launch was seen as being a step closer to North Korea lifting its self-imposed moratorium on testing the longest-range intercontinental ballistic missiles, which it hasn’t tested since 2017.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in said Pyongyang’s recent missile tests are a “challenge toward the international community’s efforts to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula, stabilize peace and find a diplomatic solution.”
A senior U.S. administration official said that Washington is concerned that Pyongyang may resume long-range testing, in violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions.
“It’s not just what they did yesterday, it’s the fact that this is coming on the heels of quite a significant number of tests in this month. And that follows on tests at the end of the year going back to September, of a variety of systems,” the official told reporters on Jan. 30.
Washington called on North Korea to refrain from further nuclear testing, saying that the launch was “increasingly destabilizing” and prompted a response.
“You will see us taking some steps that are designed to show our commitment to our allies. And at the same time, we reiterate our call for diplomacy. We stand ready and we are very serious about trying to have discussions that address concerns on both sides,” the official said.
North Korea said earlier this month that it would consider restarting all temporarily suspended actions due to the United States not showing any signs of dropping its “hostile policies.”
KCNA reported that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un visited an unspecified munitions factory that produces the country’s “major weapon system.”
North Korea had previously warned of a “stronger” response to the U.S. sanctions on six North Koreans involved in obtaining supplies for Pyongyang’s nuclear program from Russia and China.
The United States has also urged the U.N. Security Council to follow through on the sanctions. Representatives from China and Russia blocked the proposal, claiming that additional time and proof were required to support it.
Reuters contributed to this report.