The trajectory could indicate that the goal was to test North Korea’s ability to launch a missile and re-enter Earth’s atmosphere to reach the target, according to two officials.
The second stage of the missile’s potential “double arc” would have been a reentry vehicle and separated from the main missile. One official said it was not yet entirely clear to the United States whether this was all part of the planned itinerary.
The officials emphasized that the US intelligence assessment of the three test launches is still in its early stages.
It is not clear which of the three missiles launched had an unusual flight pattern. Japan has publicly hinted that one of the missiles flew in an unusual way, and Japanese Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi described this as an “irregular trajectory.”
South Korea said a missile supposedly launched at around 6 a.m. local time Wednesday has a flight range of about 360 kilometers (223 miles) and an altitude of about 540 kilometers (335 miles).
At about 6:37 a.m. local time on Wednesday, North Korea launched a second ballistic missile – not believed to be an ICBM – which appears to have disappeared from South Korean tracking at an altitude of 20 kilometers (12 miles), South Korea said. . One of the initial assessments indicated that it was possible that the missile had flown over a populated area in North Korea.
South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said the third missile, presumably a short-range ballistic missile (SRBM), flew about 760 kilometers (472 miles) and had an altitude of 60 kilometers (37 miles).
The United States Ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas Greenfield, confirmed that one missile has an ICBM in a statement, “The DPRK’s May 25 launch of three ballistic missiles included another ICBM launch. The United States estimates that this is the The sixth launch of intercontinental ballistic missiles by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea since the beginning of 2022.” It warned that the regime has launched 23 ballistic missiles since the beginning of the year and is “actively preparing for a nuclear test.”
The three launches, which occurred within an hour, come amid fears that North Korea is preparing for its first underground nuclear test since 2017. South Korea on Wednesday discovered evidence that North Korea was testing an explosive device for a nuclear test, which a South Korean official told reporters. Wednesday that it could be a prelude to an actual test.
After the missile launches, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin had a safe call with South Korean Defense Minister Lee Jong Sub “to discuss assessments and response measures for the DPRK’s recent ballistic missile launch,” according to a Pentagon statement.
The latest launches mark the 16th time North Korea has tested its missiles this year, including what the US believes was a failed ICBM test on May 4 that exploded shortly after launch.
But North Korea is believed to have tested an ICBM in late March.
This missile flew at an altitude of 6,000 kilometers (3,728 miles) and a distance of 1,080 kilometers (671 miles) with a flight time of 71 minutes before falling into waters off Japan’s west coast, according to Japan’s Defense Ministry.
CNN’s Gaon Bey contributed to this report.
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