North Korea announced on Sunday (February 19) that it has successfully tested an intercontinental ballistic missile as a warning to the United States and South Korea. Pyongyang claimed the successful “surprise” drill showed Pyongyang’s capability to carry out a “fatal nuclear counterattack.” The “sudden launching drill” was ordered by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at 8:00 am Saturday (2300 GMT Friday), and a Hwasong-15 missile — a weapon originally tested by the North in 2017 — was fired from Pyongyang airport that afternoon, according to the official KCNA.
The ICBM was launched at 17:22 (08:22 GMT) on Saturday, according to South Korea’s military, while Japan said it flew for 66 minutes before touching down in its Exclusive Economic Zone. Japan’s inquiry found the missile could have hit the US mainland, as reported by AFP.
The test, the nation’s first in seven weeks, was hailed by North Korea’s leadership, who said it demonstrated “the actual war capacity of the ICBM units which are ready for a mobile and mighty counterattack,” according to KCNA.
It was also said that the launch was “actual proof” of the nation’s “capacity of fatal nuclear counterattack on the hostile forces.”
“The exercise displayed the timely and immediate deployment of the US extended deterrence assets to the Korean peninsula,” demonstrating the “overwhelming force” of the allies, the ministry said in a statement.
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The North Korean launch, which breached sanctions, occurred just days before Seoul and Washington were scheduled to commence joint tabletop exercises aimed at strengthening their response in the event of a nuclear strike by North Korea.
Last week, Pyongyang warned of an “unprecedented” strong response to planned drills, which it sees as war preparations and linked to the deteriorating security situation on the Korean peninsula.
US, South Korea demonstrate joint air exercise after North Korea’s ICBM launch
A day after North Korea launched an ICBM, the Hwasong-15, in a “sudden launching drill,” the United States and South Korea conducted a combined air exercise with US strategic bombers.
The drill, which saw South Korean F-35A, F-15K, and American F-16 fighters join American B-1B bombers, was described by South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff as displaying the allies’ “overwhelming” defence capabilities and readiness posture.
“(The exercise) strengthened the combined operation capability and affirmed the United States’ ironclad commitment to the defence of the Korean Peninsula and the implementation of extended deterrence,” the South’s military said in a statement.
The joint military drill between the United States and South Korea takes place a day after North Korea fired a long-range ballistic missile into the ocean off the west coast of Japan, despite warnings from South Korea and the United States that they would respond sternly to any future military exercises.
(With inputs from agencies)