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North Korea fires long-range ballistic missile for record 74 minutes after US spy plane ‘provocation’

North Korea has conducted a missile test with the longest flight time ever recorded, after it accused the US of flying spy planes in its airspace.

Wednesday’s launch was the first intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) test in three months, with the South Korean military describing it as a “a grave provocation”.

It flew about 1,000km (621 miles) at a maximum altitude of 6,000km (3,730 miles) for 74 minutes, Japan’s chief cabinet secretary Hirokazu Matsuno said, in what would be the longest ever flight time for a North Korean missile. It landed in waters between the Korean Peninsula and Japan.

A man stands along a sidewalk to watch a TV showing a news program on North Korea's missile launch Wednesday, July 12, 2023, in Tokyo. North Korea launched a long-range ballistic missile toward its eastern waters Wednesday, its neighbors said, two days after the North threatened ???shocking??? consequences to protest what it called a provocative U.S. reconnaissance activity near its territory.(AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)
North Korea launched a long-range ballistic missile on Wednesday to protest what it called a provocative US reconnaissance activity near its territory (Photo: Eugene Hoshiko/AP)

Experts believe North Korea tested its developmental Hwasong-18 ICBM, a type of solid-fuel weapon that is harder to detect and intercept than Pyongyang’s other liquid-fuel missiles.

The North Korean leader, Kim Jong Un, previously called the Hwasong-18 his most powerful nuclear weapon.

It came as the South Korean President, Yoon Suk Yeol, and Japan’s Prime Minister, Fumio Kishida, were visiting the Lithuanian capital Vilnius to attend the Nato summit. In an emergency security council meeting convened in the east European country, Mr Yoon said North Korea must face consequences.

Earlier this week, Pyongyang released a series of statements accusing the US of flying a military plane close to North Korea to spy on the country, which both Washington and Seoul have denied.

A spokesperson for North Korea’s defence ministry said the US had “intensified espionage activities beyond the wartime level” with “provocative” spy plane flights over eight straight days this month.

Kim Yo Jong, the North Korean leader’s influential sister, warned the US of “a shocking incident” as she claimed that the American spy plane flew over the North’s eastern exclusive economic zone eight times on Monday. She claimed the North scrambled warplanes to chase away the US plane.

Leif-Eric Easley, an International Studies Professor at Ewha Womans University in Seoul, said North Korea’s recent statements against US surveillance aircraft were part of a pattern of inflating external threats to rally domestic support and justify weapons tests.

“Pyongyang also times its shows of force to disrupt what it perceives as diplomatic co-ordination against it, in this case, South Korea and Japan’s leaders meeting during the Nato summit,” he added.

Before Wednesday’s launch, the most recent long-range missile test launched by North Korea was in April, when it launched the Hwasong-18 ICBM for the first time.

Mr Kim said the missile would enhance his country’s counterattack capabilities in the face of US military threats, according to state media.

Additional reporting by agencies

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