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North Korea fired its biggest missile in years, releases photos of earth from warhead camera

Photographs of Hwasong missile released by Korean Central News Agency (Photo: North Korea government)

North Korean media reported on Monday that Pyongyang fired a Hwasong-12 ballistic missile on Sunday, its longest-range ballistic missile since 2017, increasing apprehensions among neighbours Japan and South Korea.

The State-owned Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) confirmed the testing of the missile, which was targeted 800 kms away at the Sea of Japan.

KCNA said that Sunday's firing was "conducted by the highest-angle launch system from the northwestern part of the country toward the waters" of the Sea of Japan "in consideration of the security of neighboring countries".

The Hwasong-12 missile is "being deployed," the report added, saying North Korea has "confirmed the accuracy, security and effectiveness of the operation" of the weapon system under production.

CNA also shared images of the earth from space clicked by a camera installed on the missile's warhead.

Both Japan and South Korea have condemned the launches. Seoul said the missile reached a maximum altitude of 2,000 km before coming down in the Sea of Japan. This was the seventh round of tests by North Korea this month, reports the Kyodo news agency.

The Japanese Defence Ministry estimates that the Hwasong-12 has a range of around 5,000 km, which would bring the entire Japanese archipelago and the US territory of Guam within its reach.

Criticising the series of missile launches, Japanese Defence Minister Nobuo Kishi said: "It is clear that the aim is to unilaterally escalate the stage of provocation against the international community."

North Korea's continued tests of missiles violate the UN Security Council (UNSC) resolutions.

Experts believe that through repeated test firings, Pyongyang seems to be signalling for talks with the US. It has made efforts to speak with South Korea about "complete denuclearization" of the Korean Peninsula.

Former US president Donald Trump in his Singapore summit with Kim in June 2018 had promised to provide security guarantees to Pyongyang in return for "complete" denuclearization. North Korea has withheld nuclear and ICBM tests since then but the two countries have not made progress over denuclearization and sanctions relief over the past few years.

The Biden administration has indicated that it is willing to resume the stalled talks but levied additional sanctions after Pyongyang began testing a diversity of missiles last year. North Korean leader Kim Jong Un also began modernising the country's armed forces.