SEOUL/TOKYO (Reuters) - North Korea fired a missile on Friday in an unusual late-night test launch, and details announced by Japanese officials and media suggested it could be an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).
The launch from North Korea’s northern Jangang province took place at 11:41 p.m. (1441 GMT), an official at South Korea’s Office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said. The U.S. Defense Department confirmed the launch, saying it was making further assessments.
“As a result of their launches of ICBM-level missiles, this clearly shows the threat to our nation’s safety is severe and real,” Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said.
Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said that the North Korean missile flew for about 45 minutes. Japanese broadcast NHK citing a military official said the missile reached an altitude of more than 3,000 km (1,860 miles).
The data indicates the missile was fired at a sharply lofted angle but packed more power than a missile launched earlier this month that U.S and South Korean officials said was an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), potentially capable of hitting the mainland United States.
The North claimed after the July 4 launch that it had successfully tested an ICBM that flew 933 km (580 miles), reaching an altitude of 2,802 km (1,741 miles) over a flight time of 39 minutes and able to carry a large and heavy nuclear warhead.
U.S.–based missile expert Michael Elleman of the International Institute for Strategic Studies said Friday’s test was possibly of a similar missile with a more powerful second stage, but stressed it was a preliminary assessment.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in has called a National Security Council meeting for 1 a.m. Saturday, his office said, and Abe also said a National Security Council meeting would be convened.
Reporting by Jack Kim in Seoul, Elaine Lies and William Mallard in Tokyo and Idrees Ali and David Brunnstrom in Washington; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan