North Korea Fires Suspected Intermediate-Range Ballistic Missile into East Sea, South Korea Military Reports

SEOUL — North Korea launched a suspected intermediate-range ballistic missile (IRBM) into the East Sea on Sunday, marking Pyongyang's first missile launch of the year, as reported by South Korea's military. This event escalates the already heightened tensions due to North Korea's ongoing military provocations.

According to Yonhap News Agency, the missile was launched from an area in or around Pyongyang at approximately 2:55 p.m. and traveled about 1,000 kilometers before falling into the sea. The JCS condemned the launch as a "clear provocative act" and reported that data on the North Korean missile had been shared with U.S. and Japanese authorities, with an analysis of its specifications currently underway.

The South Korean military emphasized its commitment to closely monitoring North Korea's activities and maintaining readiness to respond decisively to any provocation, supported by a robust South Korea-U.S. combined defense posture.

This launch follows the recent activation of a real-time missile warning data sharing system between Seoul, Washington, and Tokyo, aimed at strengthening trilateral cooperation against North Korea's military threats.

South Korea's Defense Minister Shin Won-sik, in an interview with Yonhap News Agency last week, indicated the possibility of North Korea testing a new type of IRBM this month, following the country's reported solid-fuel engine tests for a new IRBM in November. Seoul officials believe Pyongyang's solid-fuel IRBM under development could target U.S. military bases in Japan and Guam, with a range of up to 5,500 km.

Solid-fuel missiles are more challenging to detect before launch compared to liquid-fuel ones due to fewer preparation requirements, such as fuel injection. North Korea's missile development program has been advancing, evidenced by the launch of a Hwasong-18 solid-fuel intercontinental ballistic missile into the East Sea on December 18.

The recent missile launch occurs amid escalating tensions, following North Korea's artillery shell firings near the inter-Korean maritime border in the Yellow Sea earlier this month. In response, South Korea conducted live-fire drills from its northwestern border islands, a first in over six years.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un recently stated his readiness for war with South Korea, threatening total annihilation in the event of South Korean aggression.

With South Korea's general elections approaching in April, officials anticipate increased provocative acts by North Korea. Additionally, the launch precedes a scheduled visit of North Korean Foreign Minister Choe Son-hui to Russia, signaling growing bilateral ties.

Seoul and Washington have accused Pyongyang of supplying arms to Moscow, further complicating the geopolitical landscape following Kim Jong-un's summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Russia's Far East last September.

scroll to top