SEOUL, March 25 — North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un personally oversaw the test-firing of the country’s “new type” of intercontinental ballistic missile, state media reported Friday.
“The test-launch of a new type inter-continental ballistic missile Hwasongpho-17 of the DPRK strategic forces was conducted on March 24... under the direct guidance of Kim Jong-un,” KCNA said.
The Hwasong-17 is a giant ICBM first unveiled in October 2020 and dubbed a “monster missile” by analysts. It has never previously been successfully test fired.
“The missile, launched at Pyongyang International Airport, travelled up to a maximum altitude of 6,248.5 km and flew a distance of 1,090 km for 4,052s before accurately hitting the pre-set area in open waters” in the Sea of Japan, KCNA said.
South Korea’s military had estimated the range of the Thursday launch as 6,200 kilometers (3,800 miles) — far longer than the last ICBM North Korea tested in October 2017.
The missile landed in Japanese exclusive economic zone waters, prompting anger from Tokyo, but KCNA said the launch had been carried out “in a vertical launch mode in consideration of the security of neighbouring countries”.
It is likely North Korea’s largest ever ICBM test, and the first time they have test-fired Kim’s most powerful missiles since 2017.
Kim said the new weapon would “creditably perform its mission and duty as a powerful nuclear war deterrent,” according to KCNA.
He “remarked with pride that the emergence of the new strategic weapon of the DPRK would make the whole world clearly aware of the power of our strategic armed forces once again,” KCNA reported.
Long-range and nuclear tests have been paused since Kim met then-US president Donald Trump for a bout of doomed diplomacy, which collapsed in 2019.
But North Korea threatened earlier this year it could abandon a self-imposed moratorium on long range and nuclear tests, and the US and South Korea has warned this month Pyongyang was preparing to launch an ICBM at full range.
North Korea has long coveted an ICBM that can carry multiple warheads and, Seoul and Washington say, has been testing the Hwasong-17 under cover of developing a “reconnaissance satellite”.
Last week, a test likely of the Hwasong-17 ended in failure, exploding in the skies over the capital shortly after launch.
The North has carried out three ICBM tests, the last in November 2017, of a Hwasong-15 — deemed powerful enough to reach the continental United States.
Seoul, Tokyo and Washington have condemned the Thursday launch, which will raise tensions on the peninsula amid a presidential transition in South Korea. — AFP