North Korea‘s latest missile launches were tests for parts of a intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBMs) that could have the range to strike anywhere in the US, the South Korean and US military have said.
Pyongyang carried out two missile tests on February 16 and March 4, after a flurry of tests in January, and the US and South Korean military believe that the latest tests were tests for parts of Pyongyang’s longest-range missile, the Hwasong-17. As per the Associated Press, the Hwasong-17 has an effective range of 9,320 miles, which opens up long-range missile strike options for North Korea.
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Given the threat posed by the development of such a missile, Pentagon press secretary John Kirby on Thursday condemned North Korea’s tests, saying, “The United States strongly condemns these launches, which are a brazen violation of multiple United Nations Security Council resolutions, needlessly raise tensions and risk destabilizing the security situation in the region.”
Kirby went on to explain that Pyongyang’s latest tests were not intended to demonstrate the range of its ICBMs, but were intended to “evaluate this new system before conducting a test at full range in the future, potentially disguised as a space launch.”
The Pentagon press secretary further said the latest missile tests signalled a “serious escalation” by North Korea.
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Pyongyang had last carried out ICBM tests in 2017, before suspending operations ahead of a summit with former US President Donald Trump. However, as per the Guardian, Pyongyang in January warned that it would resume “all temporally-suspended activities,” a move that many see as a means to coerce the Joe Biden administration into offering Pyongyang concessions.
North Korea is prohibited from developing nuclear and ballistic missiles by international law, but is not prohibited from testing cruise missiles.