Politics

North Korea Tested ICBM, US Says, as Kim Visits Launch Site


North Korea’s last two missile launches were actually tests of a new intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) system, U.S. officials said Thursday, as they threatened fresh sanctions on Pyongyang and warned of a “serious escalation” in tensions.

The launches on February 26 and March 4 did not demonstrate ICBM range but were likely meant to evaluate the new system before conducting a test at full range in the future, potentially disguised as a space launch, according to a statement from Pentagon spokesman John Kirby.

North Korea had not given many details about the tests, other than to say they were in preparation for the launch of a military spy satellite.

On Friday, state media reported North Korean leader Kim Jong Un visited the country’s Sohae Satellite Launching Ground. Pictures showed Kim, wearing a black leather jacket and sunglasses, speaking with top North Korean defense officials as they stood in front of a launch tower.

This undated picture released from North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency on March 10, 2022, shows North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, 2nd right, inspecting North Korea's National Aerospace Development Administration in Pyongyang.

This undated picture released from North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency on March 10, 2022, shows North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, 2nd right, inspecting North Korea’s National Aerospace Development Administration in Pyongyang.

Kim announced plans to “build a number of new elements in the launching ground so as to launch the military reconnaissance satellite and other multipurpose satellites by diverse carrier rockets in the future,” said a report by the Korean Central News Agency.

A day earlier, Kim said the spy satellite would provide “real-time information” on the movements of “the aggression troops of the U.S. imperialism and its vassal forces” in the region. None of the reports said when such a launch would occur.

North Korea had not conducted an ICBM launch since 2017, during the height of tensions between Kim and former U.S. President Donald Trump. A year earlier, North Korea had attempted to launch a satellite. The United States and its allies view North Korean satellite launches as thinly disguised tests of long-range missile technology banned by U.N. Security Council resolutions.

A satellite launch would dramatically raise tensions on the Korean Peninsula. On Thursday, conservative former prosecutor Yoon Suk-yeol was declared the winner of South Korea’s presidential election. Yoon has promised a much more forceful approach to North Korea.



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