According to South Korea military, North Korea has fired a ballistic missile, the first since the new President Donald Trump took office.
The missile, that was launched at 07:55 local time (17:25 CT Saturday), flew towards the Sea of Japan for about 500 KMs, according to the South Korean officials.
There has been alarm and anger in the region by the continuous missile and nuclear tests by North Korea and its aggressive statements add fuel to the fire.
The launch on Sunday took place from the Banghyon Air Base in North Pyongan province, located on west side of the Korean peninsula.
Reuters News Agency quoted a U.S. Defense official in Washington as saying that the “military had detected a missile test launch by the North.”
A White House official stated that President Donald Trump had been briefed about the launch. The launch comes a day after Trump held a summit with Japanese Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, in which he agreed to ensure strong defense against North Korea’s threat.
The Foreign Ministry of South Korea said in a statement that:
“North Korea’s repeated provocations show the Kim Jong-un regime’s nature of irrationality, maniacally obsessed in its nuclear and missile development.”
Chief Cabinet Secretary of Japan, Yoshihide Suga stated that the missile had not reached Japanese territorial waters, and added that Tokyo would make a “strong protest” to North Korea over the test.
The launch was described as a “show of force” by South Korea’s Office of Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Kim Jong-un, the North Korean leader, said earlier in January that the country was near to testing long-range missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads.
U.S. Defense Secretary, General James Mattis, on a visit to South Korea last week said that “an effective and overwhelming” response will be given to the North for any use of nuclear weapons. He also reconfirmed that the U.S. missile defense system (THAAD) would be deployed in South Korea later this year.
Last year, North Korea conducted its fifth test of a nuclear device, and claims that the country is capable of carrying out a nuclear attack on the U.S., a claim not backed by evidence; experts believe that North Korea’s technology has not progressed enough to carry out that attack.
North Korea has also claimed in recent weeks that it has a new Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) capable of reaching the U.S. mainland, which is prepared to be test launched anytime.
If fully developed, a North Korean ICBM could threaten the continental United States, which is about 9,000 km away from North Korea. The minimum range of an ICBM is about 5,500 km, but some can travel 10,000 km or even more.
Pyongyang conducted two nuclear tests and a number of missile-related tests at an unprecedented rate in 2016; the launches were seen as an advancement in weapons capabilities by experts and officials, and some also believe that North Korea has cleared significant hurdles in acquiring ICMB technology. The last ballistic missile launch attempt by Kim Jong Un’s regime was detected on October 20.