The maximum speed of the intermediate-range ballistic missile that North Korea tested earlier on Sunday was estimated as Mach 16, or 16 times the speed of sound at takeoff, the South Korean Yonhap news agency reported, citing a military source.
Intelligence services of the United States and South Korea assume that the rocket is similar to the Hwasong-12 intermediate-range ballistic missile that North fired in November 2017, the source added.
Earlier, North Korea possibly tested a medium or long-range ballistic missile on Sunday, according to Japanese and South Korean reports.
On Sunday morning, the South Korean Yonhap news agency reported citing the South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) that Pyongyang had launched an unidentified projectile toward the East Sea (Sea of Japan) from North Korea’s Jagang Province area.
Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno told reporters on Sunday that the suspected ballistic missile launched by Pyongyang flew 800 km (497 miles) reaching a maximum altitude of 2,000 km (1,243 miles), and fell outside of Japan’s Exclusive Economic Zone after its estimated 30-minute flight.
According to Yonhap, the South Korean military characterized the ballistic missile as “intermediate-range” and also said that it flew around 800 kilometers at an altitude of 2,000 kilometers.
The South Korean National Security Council (NSC) characterized the missile launched by North Korea on Sunday as a “medium-range ballistic missile,” Yonhap said in another update.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in presided over a plenary meeting of the NSC for the first time in about a year on Sunday, according to Yonhap. Moon said that Pyongyang’s latest launch violated the UN Security Council resolution, and, if confirmed to be an intermediate-range ballistic missile test, it would be close to scrapping the moratorium on a long-range missile and nuclear tests.
Meanwhile, Matsuno told reporters that the ballistic missile could have been medium- or above medium-range. According to the Kyodo news agency, there have been no reports of any damages following the suspected launch, which, if officially confirmed, will be the seventh test carried out by North Korea this year.
North Korea has conducted six missile launches earlier this month, including tests of alleged hypersonic missiles. The latest launch took place on Thursday, while the previous one was on Tuesday.
South Korea, Japan and the United State have repeatedly condemned Pyongyang’s missile tests, saying that its missile program violates Security Council resolutions and undermines regional stability and security.
North Korea argues in the foreign ministry’s statement released on January 14 that its efforts to modernize the national defense capability do not target any specific state and “did not do any harm to the security of neighboring countries.” The statement stresses that enhancing its self-defense capabilities is its legitimate right as a sovereign state, which it refuses to abandon.
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