North Korea fired an unidentified missile on Friday, a provocation that follows its first successful launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) earlier in July.
The projectile was fired toward the Sea of Japan and officials in Japan and the US said they are assessing whether it was another ICBM. The launch took place around 11:41 pm, South Korea’s joint chiefs of staff said in a text message.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in called a national security council meeting, while the White House said President Donald Trump was briefed. “We detected what we assess was a ballistic missile launched from North Korea,” said Captain Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman.
North Korea’s launch of an ICBM on 4 July brought Kim Jong Un’s isolated regime closer to its aim of building a device capable of hitting the continental US with a nuclear warhead. Secretary of state Rex Tillerson called it a “new escalation of the threat” to the US and its allies, though South Korea’s intelligence agency cast doubt on whether it had acquired the necessary re-entry capability.
In a new assessment, US officials warned the country will be able to launch a nuclear-capable ICBM as early as next year, the Washington Post reported this week.
Trump has said all options including military force are available to combat the North Korean threat. After the ICBM test he said he’s weighing some “pretty severe things” in response.
At the Group of 20 summit in Hamburg, meetings between Trump and the leaders of South Korea, Japan and China ended without a clear consensus about how to curb North Korea’s nuclear ambitions. The words “North Korea” were not in the final communique.
Kim has conducted a series of tests since Moon became South Korea’s president in May, complicating Moon’s ambitions to engage with Pyongyang. The new leader said in a Berlin speech that he’s willing, under the right circumstances, to meet Kim “anytime, anywhere.”
North Korea has yet to respond to an offer by Moon to seek a deal in 2020 to bring about the”complete denuclearization” of the nation in return for a peace treaty that would guarantee the survival of Kim’s regime.