SEOUL, Jan 31 — North Korea confirmed it had fired a Hwasong-12 “mid-range ballistic missile”, state media reported today, the first time it has tested a weapon that powerful since 2017.
Seoul’s military said it had detected the launch yesterday of an intermediate-range ballistic missile — Pyongyang’s seventh weapons test in January.
North Korea has never test-fired this many missiles in a calendar month before and last week threatened to abandon a nearly five-year-long self-imposed moratorium on testing long-range and nuclear weapons, blaming US “hostile” policy for forcing its hand.
“The evaluation test-fire of Hwasong 12-type ground-to-ground intermediate- and long-range ballistic missile was conducted Sunday,” the official Korean Central News Agency said.
The test “confirmed the accuracy, security and effectiveness of the operation of the Hwasong 12-type weapon system under production,” KCNA added.
KCNA said the test was carried out using the “highest-angle launch system” to ensure the safety of neighbouring countries, and that the warhead carried a camera that took photos while it was in space.
With peace talks with Washington stalled, North Korea has doubled down on leader Kim Jong-un’s vow to modernise the regime’s armed forces, flexing Pyongyang’s military muscles despite biting international sanctions.
South Korea said yesterday that North Korea appeared to be following a “similar pattern” to 2017 — when tensions were last at breaking point on the peninsula — warning Pyongyang could soon restart nuclear and intercontinental missile tests.
The last time Pyongyang tested an intermediate-range missile was the Hwasong-12 in 2017, which analysts said at the time was powerful enough to put the US territory of Guam in range.
The string of launches in 2022 comes at a delicate time in the region, with Kim’s sole major ally China set to host the Winter Olympics next month and South Korea gearing up for a presidential election in March. — AFP