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Start of a new conflict? North Korea fires ballistic missile towards Japan

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North Korea fired a ballistic missile off its east coast towards Japan on Wednesday, said South Korea’s joint chiefs of staff. This comes after North Korea’s repeated threats of retaliation over the alleged US Spy plane flights.

The missile flew about 1,000kms before crashing into water, said South Korea’s military. The missile crashed 250kms West of Okushiri island in Japan’s northernmost Hokkaido prefecture after a flight taking 74 minutes which reached an altitude of more than 6,000 kms, said Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary. South Korean and Japanese assessments said that the launch was on a high angle so as to avoid affecting any neighbouring countries.

This took place as the top US general met his South Korean and Japanese counterparts for a rare trilateral meeting in Hawaii. Colonel Dave Butler, a spokesman for Gen Mark Milley, told Reuters that the North Korean launch occurred at the conclusion of the meeting, which had been long planned.

The US has been pressing the uneasy neighbours (South Korea and Japan) to work more closely to jointly combat the threats of China and North Korea. The ties between Japan and South Korea are not very good, which is a consequence of the Japanese occupation of Korea in the time period of 1910-1945.

Experts suggest that North Korea tested its developmental, road-mobile Hwasong-18 ICBM, a type of solid-fuel weapon that is harder to detect and intercept than the North’s other liquid-fuel ICBMs. Kim Jong-Un had previously called the Hwasong-18 as the most powerful weapon.

This is North Korea’s 12th such launch already this year. In April, the regime had tested the first ever solid fuel intercontinental ballistic missile and later in May unsuccessfully launched what it called its first ever spy satellite on a new launch vehicle.

This launch comes days after heated complaints by North Korea over  US military actions, even accusing the US of sending spy planes violating the North Korean air space in its economic zones and even criticised their recent visit to South Korea by an American nuclear-powered cruise missile submarine.

Kim Yo-Jong, the sister of Kim Jong-Un also threatened with disastrous consequences over US reconnaissance activity. The US and South Korea have dismissed the accusations made by North Korea and urged it to refrain from any acts or rhetoric which could raise tensions in the region. North Korea has made numerous similar threats over alleged US reconnaissance activities, but its latest statements came amidst heightened rivalry over its multiple missile tests this year.

UN security council resolutions ban North Korea’s use of ballistic missile technology, including for satellite launches. The security council, as well as a number of countries, have imposed sanction on North Korea for its missile and nuclear weapons programmes.

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