North Korea Launched ICBM After US-South Korea Exercises Announced

North Korea’s rogue state launched an inter-continental ballistic missile (ICBM) on Saturday, just hours after the announcement that the U.S. and South Korea will hold joint exercises.

The New York Times reported that, per the South Korean military, a North Korean ICBM launched from the capital city of Pyongyang. The missile “flew about 560 miles to the east” before landing off Japan’s coast.

The Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said that the missile was fired at a high angle to avoid neighboring countries. It was reported to reach an altitude of about 3,585 miles and was in flight for 67 minutes before hitting its target between the Korean Peninsula and Japan.

It was the North’s first missile test since Jan. 1. KCNA said the launch was carried out “suddenly” on orders from leader Kim Jong Un to ascertain the Hwasong-15’s reliability and the nation’s combat readiness.

The Associated Press cited experts who believe the North may roll out regular testing of its ballistic missiles. It may also signal that Kim Jong Un will use the joint exercises by the U.S. and the South as a pretext to enhance the North’s nuclear arsenal.

There is ongoing debate over whether the reclusive regime has a functioning nuclear-tipped ballistic missile. That uncertainty has done nothing to prevent the regular saber-rattling from Pyongyang, which said the test bolstered its “fatal” nuclear attack capabilities.

North Korea’s statements after the test aligned with assessments by neighbors who also tracked the ICBM’s flight. The results indicate that fired at a normal trajectory, the missile could theoretically strike the continental U.S. or virtually anywhere on the globe.

The North currently relies on ICBMs that use liquid propellants. These are not capable of being fueled for long periods of time and are not as mobile as the solid-fueled variety.

It is believed that Pyongyang is advancing towards development of solid-fueled missiles, which would more easily elude detection.

The latest launch is thought to be an upgraded version of the North’s known arsenal featuring a substantially farther potential range. Saturday’s test followed a public vow of an “unprecedentedly” strong response to the coming joint drills by the South and its American ally.

The North claims the drills amount to a rehearsal for a coming invasion. Kim Jong Un’s powerful sister, Kim Yo Jong, said Sunday that her country will counter the “dangerous greed and attempt to gain the military upper hand” by the U.S. and South Korea.