North Korea launched an intercontinental ballistic missile into the sea off Japan on Friday, the Pentagon has confirmed. It landed in Japan's exclusive economic zone just hours after Tokyo announced it would increase its sanctions on the North.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said this latest launch "clearly shows the threat to our nation's safety is severe and real," and means that increasing pressure on the hermit nation is unavoidable.
The launch had been expected, and the missile traveled for about 1,000 kilometers, or 620 miles, Pentagon spokesman Capt. Jeff Davis announced Friday afternoon.
The ICBM flew for about 45 minutes with no immediate reports of damage, Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said, noting Japan would remain in touch with its American and South Korean allies on the issue. It could have reached an altitude of more than 3,000 kilometers, or around 1,864 miles, added public broadcaster NHK, citing a Japanese defense official.
The move is the latest military provocation from the regime of Kim Jong Un, who has conducted a spate of missile tests since the inauguration of U.S. President Donald Trump in January. Earlier this month around America's Fourth of July holiday, North Korea fired its first successful ICBM, a weapon experts say may be capable of reaching Alaska.
Intelligence agencies said this week they expect Kim to have a successful ICBM that's able to reach most of the U.S. within a year, far shorter than the four-year timeline they had originally expected. The New York Times reports the new, expedited calendar comes as officials realize the extent to which Kim wants such weaponry, which could eventually be fitted with a nuclear weapon.
Some had speculated that the North could conduct another test launch around the July 27 anniversary of the armistice agreement that ended the Korean War, although both the Pentagon and South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff said there was no indication of an imminent test later in the month. The country had appeared to be transporting vehicles carrying ICBM equipment earlier this month.
South Korea took steps to propose holding military and humanitarian talks with the North early in July, the first such plans since 2014. However, the North did not respond to the invitation.
North Korean state media recently took aim at Trump, however, and called on the U.S. to "withdraw the anachronistic hostile police toward North Korea and kneel and apologize to its army and people."
However, CIA Director Mike Pompeo alluded last week that no such thing would happen any time soon, saying it would "be a great thing to denuclearize the peninsula, to get those weapons off of that, but the thing that is most dangerous about it is the character who holds the control over them today."
"As for the regime, I am hopeful we will find a way to separate that regime from this system," Pompeo said during a panel moderated by Times columnist Bret Stephens. "The North Korean people I'm sure are lovely people and would love to see him go."
This article has been updated with new details, including comment from the Pentagon, Abe and Suga.