North Korea confirmed on Monday it had launched a Hwasong-12 ballistic missile, the same weapon it once threatened to target the U.S. territory of Guam with “enveloping fire,” sparking fears the nuclear-armed state could resume long-range missile testing.
The launch of the intermediate-range ballistic missile (IRBM) was first reported by South Korean and Japanese authorities on Sunday. It was the seventh test conducted by the communist government in January and the first time a nuclear-capable missile of that size has been launched since 2017.
The United States is concerned that N. Korea’s escalating missile tests could be precursors to resume tests of nuclear weapons and ICBMs and warned an unspecified response “designed to show our commitment to our allies,” a senior U.S. official told media in Washington.
“It’s not just what they did on Sunday, it’s the fact that this is coming on the heels of quite a significant number of tests in this month,” the US official said, while urging Pyongyang to join direct talks without any precondition.
North Korea has clarified that it is open to diplomacy, but that Washington’s overtures are undermined by its support for sanctions and joint military drills and arms buildups in South Korea and the region.
Amid a flurry of diplomacy in 2018, including summits with then-U.S. President Donald Trump, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un declared his nuclear force complete and said he would suspend nuclear testing and launches of the country’s longest-range missiles.