The US has assessed that North Korea tested a medium-range missile on Wednesday local time. It was fired from a launcher placed on a floating barge off the coast of the country, according to two US officials familiar with the latest assessment.
The test came a day after Pyongyang and Washington agreed to resume nuclear talks.
This marks a departure from the tests of shorter range missiles Pyongyang has carried out in recent weeks. President Donald Trump has downplayed the significance of those launches calling them very standard because of their limiting range saying “many people have those missiles.”
“There have been no nuclear tests. The missile tests have all been short-ranged — no ballistic missile test. No long-range missiles,” Trump said in August.
The missile was launched from near Wonsan, a city in Kangwon Province on North Korea’s east coast and flew for a distance of 450 kilometers (280 miles) before landing in waters off Japan. It reached an altitude of 910 kilometers (565 miles), South Korea’s Joint Chief of Staff said in a statement Wednesday.
Shortly after the launch US and South Korean officials said the missile was assessed to be a Submarine Launch Ballistic type missile (SLBM), though a US official said it was launched from a barge-like platform designed to test underwater launches and not a submarine which North Korea has never demonstrate the ability to fire from.
The latest US assessment says that the missile was not underwater when it was launched from the barge.
While North Korea has launched multiple short-range missiles in recent weeks it has not launched a medium-range missile since 2017, long before the June 2018 meeting between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un was held in Singapore.
The most recent North Korean launch took place the day after Pyongyang and Washington agreed to resume nuclear talks.
Trump has yet to comment on the latest North Korean launch but a State Department spokesperson called on Pyongyang “to refrain from provocations, abide by their obligations under UN Security Council Resolutions, and remain engaged in substantive and sustained negotiations to do their part to ensure peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula and achieve denuclearization.”
Short-range ballistic missiles are considered to be missiles with a range of anything less than 1,000 kilometers, approximately 620 miles. Medium-range ballistic missiles have a range of between 1,000 and 3,000 kilometers or approximately 620-1,860 miles.
Talks set to resume
The launch happened a day after the US State Department said that Washington and Pyongyang plan to resume working-level talks next week.
Negotiations on denuclearization have stalled since February, when Trump cut short his meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Hanoi. Trump left the meeting with no joint agreement after Kim insisted all US sanctions be lifted on his country.
The last time the two leaders met was in June in the Korean Demilitarized Zone where they agreed to revive staff-level talks.
Earlier this week, former US national security adviser John Bolton said he didn’t believe Pyongyang would willingly surrender its nuclear weapons.
In his first public remarks since leaving his former role in the Trump administration three weeks ago, Bolton said Kim will “do whatever he can” to keep a nuclear weapons capability.
After more than a year of refraining from missile tests, Kim’s regime has conducted 11 launches since May including Wednesday’s. Most of those are believed to be short-range missiles, and experts say they have shown impressive technological advancements.