North Korea said on Friday it had launched a ballistic missile, carrying a “treasure payload” toward Japan. South Korea’s Yonhap News agency reported that the missile traveled about 500 kilometers (310 miles) and landed in the sea off Japan’s northernmost island of Hokkaido. In the aftermath of the launch, South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said that North Korea’s missile capability was “growing,” according to CNN. Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe condemned the launch.
The launch comes amid a string of provocations by North Korea over the past month, including two ballistic missile tests that flew deep into the Sea of Japan, testing a new intermediate-range ballistic missile, and the detonation of a hydrogen bomb. Those kinds of missiles are highly capable of hitting Japan and South Korea, though not Alaska or Hawaii. North Korea has also recently been testing the range of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), the vast majority of which has been made from domestically produced materials and technical expertise.
North Korea’s missile development also comes as tensions between Washington and Pyongyang are at an all-time high. The threat of military action by President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un both seem to have helped stoke the fears of an imminent war on the Korean Peninsula, which have spread into China and other parts of Asia.
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