North Korea fires intermediate-range ballistic missile

North Korea has fired a suspected intermediate-range ballistic missile, Seoul’s military said, days after Pyongyang staged live-fire exercises near the tense maritime border with the South. “Our military detected one suspected intermediate-range ballistic missile launched from the Pyongyang area towards the East Sea around at 14:55,” Seoul’s Joint Chiefs of Staff announced on Sunday in a statement, referring to the body of water also known as the Sea of Japan. The statement gave no further details, adding that authorities in Seoul, Washington and Tokyo were analysing the specifications. “Our military maintains full readiness by closely sharing information related to the launched ‘North Korean missile’ with the US and Japan,” the JCS said. Japan’s coast guard also confirmed a suspected missile launch by North Korea, citing information from the country’s defence ministry, and warning vessels to take care. North Korea’s last missile test was of a Hwasong-18 solid-fuel intercontinental ballistic missile, which it fired into the East Sea on December 18. The apparent test comes days after North Korea conducted a series of rare live-fire drills near the maritime border with the South, prompting counter-exercises and evacuation orders for some South Korean border islands. Leader Kim Jong-un also earlier this week branded Seoul his “principal enemy” and warned he would not hesitate to annihilate the South, as he toured major weapons factories. “The historic time has come at last when we should define as a state most hostile toward the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea the entity called the Republic of Korea (South Korea),” Kim was reported Wednesday as saying by the official Korean Central News Agency. Relations between the two Koreas are at one of their lowest points in decades, after Kim enshrined the country’s permanent status as a nuclear power into the constitution and test-fired several advanced intercontinental ballistic missiles. Last year, Pyongyang also successfully put a reconnaissance satellite into orbit, after receiving what South Korea claimed was Russian assistance, in exchange for arms shipments for Moscow’s war in Ukraine. Traditional allies, Russia and North Korea have recently boosted ties anew, with Kim making a rare overseas trip to see President Vladimir Putin in Russia’s far east in September.