North Korea has fired another ballistic missile, South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency reported Tuesday. The Pentagon strongly condemned the launch, which it said was “likely” an intercontinental ballistic missile.
“North Korea launched an unidentified ballistic missile eastward from the vicinity of Pyongsong, South Pyongan Province, at dawn today,” South Korea’s joint chiefs of staff said, noting the missile flew a distance of nearly 600 miles and reached an altitude of around 2,800 miles. The Japanese government reportedly said the missile flew for about 50 minutes and landed off the coast of Japan.
These figures suggest the missile would have a range of more than 8,100 miles if flown on a standard trajectory, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists, making it North Korea’s longest missile test yet. “Such a missile would have more than enough range to reach Washington, DC, and in fact any part of the continental United States,” the organization noted.
The missile “went higher, frankly, than any previous shot they’ve taken,” said U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis.
Seoul conducted a “precision strike” missile launch minutes later in response to North Korea’s provocation, per Yonhap. South Korean President Moon Jae-in also convened a National Security Council meeting.
Tuesday’s test is the first since North Korea fired a ballistic missile over Japan on Sept. 15. A Japanese government source said earlier on Tuesday that Tokyo had detected radio signals suggesting North Korea could be preparing to fire another ballistic missile, Reuters reported.
The launch further escalates tensions with the United States and the international community after a series of similar provocations by the isolated nation. It comes two weeks after Trump’s return from a 12-day trip through Asia.
While in Vietnam earlier this month, Trump continued to taunt North Korean leader Kim Jong Un via Twitter.
Trump has made a number of hostile remarks toward Pyongyang in recent months. In September, he threatened to “totally destroy” the hermit kingdom, which is home to an estimated 25 million people, and suggested it “won’t be around much longer” if the regime continues to threaten the U.S.
Many of his statements have hinted at imminent military action and have appeared to undermine his own administration’s diplomatic efforts.
In a speech before the United Nations General Assembly in September, Trump referred to Kim as “Rocket Man” and said he was on “a suicide mission for himself and for his regime.” If forced to defend itself or its allies, the U.S. “will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea,” Trump said.
Kim responded in an extremely rare personal address to Trump, calling him a “mentally deranged U.S. dotard” and vowing that the U.S. would “pay dearly.”
The war of words between Pyongyang and Washington has been escalating since Trump’s vow in August to use “fire and fury” against North Korea if necessary.
The U.N. Security Council passed its toughest sanctions yet on Pyongyang after North Korea conducted its sixth and most powerful nuclear test on Sept. 3, claiming it had detonated a hydrogen bomb. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson later said the U.N. move should “represent the floor, not the ceiling, of the action we should take.”
Trump expanded those sanctions on Sept. 21, targeting financial institutions that conduct business with Pyongyang. Last week, the U.S. issued fresh sanctions on several Chinese trading companies that have reportedly conducted business with North Korea.