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North Korea fires intercontinental ballistic missile

North Korean ballistic missile. (Stefan Krasowski, Wikimedia Commons/Released)
March 24, 2022

North Korea conducted what may be its first full intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) in over four years on Thursday.

Reuters reported the missile reached an altitude of 3,728 miles and flew 671 miles with a flight time of 71 minutes, before landing in the Sea of Japan. North Korea has conducted at least two ICBM component tests this year, but Thursday’s test appears to be the first full scale ICBM test since November 2017.

State Department spokesperson Ned Price released a statement on Thursday saying, “The United States condemns the DPRK’s ballistic missile launch. Like the DPRK’s other escalatory tests this year, including at least two intercontinental ballistic missiles, this launch is a clear violation of multiple United Nations Security Council resolutions, and demonstrates the threat the DPRK’s unlawful weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missile programs pose to the DPRK’s neighbors and the region as a whole.”

On March 10, a senior administration official told reporters North Korea’s Feb. 26 and Mar. 4 missile tests were of new ICBM systems. The official said the launches didn’t demonstrate range or capability, but tests of the system’s elements are likely before its full range is tested. The official said North Korea may have been “disguising” those previous tests as space launches.

“The United States strongly condemns the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) for its test of a long-range ballistic missile,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Thursday. “On March 10th, the United States Government publicly released information that the DPRK’s tests on February 26 and March 4, 2022 EST involved an Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) system. We noted that there would likely be further tests in the future.”

“The President and his national security team are assessing the situation in close coordination with our allies and partners,” Psaki said on Thursday. “This launch is a brazen violation of multiple UN Security Council resolutions and needlessly raises tensions and risks destabilizing the security situation in the region. This action demonstrates that the DPRK continues to prioritize its weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missile programs over the well-being of its people.”

Thursday’s apparent full ICBM test comes after North Korea tested its Hwasong-15 ICBM on Nov. 28, 2017. Thursday’s launch may be an even more advanced ICBM, designated Hwasong-17, it’s largest ICBM to date.

After North Korea’s November 2017 ICBM launch, then-President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un entered a period of denuclearization talks. During that period, Kim entered into a self-imposed moratorium on ICBM launches. Those denuclearization talks fell through in 2019 without an agreement. North Korea has conducted numerous smaller weapons tests in the time since.

“The door has not closed on diplomacy, but Pyongyang must immediately cease its destabilizing actions,” Psaki said Thursday. “The United States will take all necessary measures to ensure the security of the American homeland and Republic of Korea and Japanese allies.”