North Korea fires long-range missile after threats of ‘shocking’ consequences for alleged U.S. spy flights

North Korea launched an intercontinental ballistic missile test on Wednesday, according to the office of Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida.

Japan’s Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada said in a news conference that the missile flew for just over 70 minutes and landed in the East Sea, more than 300 miles east of the Korean Peninsula.

The launch comes days after North Korea threatened “shocking” consequences to protest what it called provocative U.S. Spy flights near its territory.

Some experts say North Korea likely launched its developmental, road-mobile Hwasong-18 ICBM, which is harder to detect and intercept. North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has called the Hwasong-18 the most powerful weapon of his nuclear forces.

The launch marked North Korea’s first long-range ballistic missile test in nearly three months and occurred just before a bilateral meeting between the leaders of South Korea and Japan on the sidelines of the NATO summit in Vilnius, Lithuania.

South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol convened an emergency meeting of the National Security Council to discuss the missile launch, according to a statement released by Yoon’s office.

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The leaders of South Korea, Japan, Australia and New Zealand − collectively known as the Asian-Pacific partners − released a joint statement to “strongly condemn” North Korea’s ballistic missile launch, according to statement released by Yoon’s office.

“No matter how much North Korea continues to develop nuclear weapons and missiles and threatens to use nuclear weapons, it only strengthens the will of the international community to achieve complete denuclearization of North Korea,” the joint statement said. “The Republic of Korea, Japan, Australia, and New Zealand urge North Korea to stop provocations and return to dialogue as soon as possible.”.

Just a day earlier, NATO allies called on North Korea to end its nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles initiatives in a communique agreed to Tuesday by the alliance.

“We reiterate that the DPRK must abandon its nuclear weapons and existing nuclear programmes, and any other weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missile programmes, in a complete, verifiable and irreversible manner,” the communique said.

Contributing: The Associated Press.

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