SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA - North Korea launched what appears to be an intercontinental ballistic missile, South Korea's Yonhap news agency reported Thursday, citing a South Korean military assessment, in what would be Pyongyang's first long-range launch since 2017.
Yonhap reported the apparent ICBM was launched on a lofted trajectory but offered no further details. Japan's Defense Ministry reported that the projectile, which it referred to as an apparent ballistic missile, traveled for nearly an hour before splashing down in Japan's exclusive economic zone.
VOA has not confirmed the South Korean military's assessment that the North fired an ICBM. However, a South Korean defense ministry official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told VOA that if Japan's figures are correct, "it could be an ICBM."
North Korea has repeatedly warned it is preparing to launch a military spy satellite. U.S. officials say such a launch would also essentially amount to a long-range missile test and may involve a massive new ICBM experts say is capable of carrying multiple warheads.
North Korea has not launched a satellite since 2016. Its most recent ICBM test was in 2017, during the height of tensions between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and former U.S. President Donald Trump.
Kim announced a self-imposed moratorium on ICBM and nuclear tests in 2018, amid talks with Trump and his South Korean counterpart, President Moon Jae-in. That moratorium now appears to be defunct.
North Korea has conducted 12 rounds of missile tests this year, including at least two that it says were to prepare for the satellite launch.
The North is systematically working through a wish list of strategic weapons laid out last year by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.