North Korea launched an “intermediate- or longer-range” missile into the sea Thursday morning, Seoul defense officials said, escalating tensions days after North Korean leader Kim Jong Un called for a more “offensive” war capacity.
South Korea’s military detected a ballistic missile fired from the Pyongyang area at 7:23 a.m., the Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a text message to reporters. The missile was launched at a lofted angle and landed in the sea east of the peninsula after flying for around 620 miles.
“We strongly condemn North Korea’s ballistic missile launch as a serious provocation that harms the peace and stability of the Korean Peninsula as well as the international community, and clearly violates U.N. Security Council resolutions,” the JCS said.
Tokyo also announced that it had detected the missile and the Japanese government briefly issued an emergency alert telling residents of the northern island of Hokkaido to take cover. Authorities withdrew the alert around 20 minutes later, while the Defense Ministry confirmed that the missile had not landed in Japanese territory.
The White House condemned the launch of what it called an intercontinental ballistic missile, saying it “needlessly raises tensions and risks destabilizing the security situation in the region.”
“This action demonstrates that the DPRK continues to prioritize its unlawful weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missile programs over the well-being of its people,” National Security Council spokeswoman Adrienne Watson said in a statement.
“We urge all countries to condemn these violations and call on the DPRK to come to the table for serious negotiations,” Watson said. “The door has not closed on diplomacy, but Pyongyang must immediately cease its destabilizing actions and instead choose diplomatic engagement.”
The launch is the latest in a flurry of weapons tests by North Korea, which has responded angrily to large-scale U.S.-South Korea joint military exercises that began last month.
In addition to launching more than two dozen missiles over the course of the drills, the North recently conducted trial runs of its Haeil underwater nuclear attack drone and unveiled new, smaller Hwasan-31 tactical nuclear warheads.
On Tuesday, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un called for “more practical and offensive” war deterrence measures while reviewing frontline military plans against South Korea.
Amid the rising tensions, the North has not responded to routine daily calls on an inter-Korean liaison channel for seven days, Seoul’s Unification Ministry said Thursday morning.
Earlier this week, Unification Minister Kwon Young-se criticized the North’s “unilateral and irresponsible attitude” in not answering the calls, warning that the secretive regime “will eventually isolate and put itself in a predicament.”