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Editorial: Progress in N. Korea's ballistic missile technology cannot be overlooked

North Korea has tested another intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), bringing it down approximately 150 kilometers northwest of Hokkaido's Okushiri Island, within Japan's exclusive economic zone. This was an act conducted in blatant disregard of international criticism.

    North Korea announced that it has launched its Hwasong-14 ICBM. It was the country's second ICBM launch following one on July 4. This time the missile flew for about 45 minutes, roughly five minutes longer than during the previous test, and a distance of approximately 1,000 kilometers.

    The missile was launched on a "lofted trajectory" set at a steeper angle than usual, and traveled to an altitude of 3,500 kilometers -- about 1,000 kilometers higher than during the previous launch. It is now estimated that North Korean missiles fired on a regular trajectory could have a range of about 10,000 kilometers, up from around 7,000 kilometers before. That is far enough to reach Chicago and other areas of the Midwestern United States.

    Pyongyang picked an unusual site and timing for the launch. The missile was launched for the first time from Chagang province in the north of the country, which has many munitions plants. Recently North Korea has tended to alter its launch sites one after another. With previous tests of long-range missiles described by North Korea as "satellite launches," the country was restricted to certain large-scale facilities. But if the country is able to prepare and launch a portable long-range missile at night in a short period, then it could catch Washington off guard.

    The possibility has now arisen that North Korea could launch a missile that could fly even further at any time, from any part of the country. The steady progression of its missile technology has reached a level that cannot be overlooked.

    North Korean leader Kim Jong Un described the launch on July 4 as a "gift" to the United States on its Independence Day, and said he would continue to send big and small gift packages to the U.S.

    July 27 is designated by North Korea as "Victory Day" and marks the signing of the armistice that halted fighting in the Korean War, in which the United States sided with South Korea. Carried out a day after this anniversary, the most recent launch was probably meant to boost national prestige and provoke the United States.

    An NHK camera in the Japanese city of Muroran captured a flash of light thought to be from North Korea's missile launch. The footage indicates that the missile landed closer to Japan. The image of the missile falling straight down in the dark was frightening.

    The launch also happened to fall on the day the top three senior officials at the Ministry of Defense, including Japanese Defense Minister Tomomi Inada, announced their resignations. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe should take serious note of the fact that the missile launch overlapped with confusion in the Defense Ministry and the Self-Defense Forces resulting from an inappropriate choice for defense minister.

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