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North Korea launches ICBM, Japan issues emergency warning

North Korea launched what appeared to be an intercontinental ballistic missile on Thursday morning, South Korean defense officials said. Photo by Thomas Maresca/UPI
North Korea launched what appeared to be an intercontinental ballistic missile on Thursday morning, South Korean defense officials said. Photo by Thomas Maresca/UPI

SEOUL, Nov. 3 (UPI) -- North Korea launched three missiles into the East Sea on Thursday, South Korean defense officials said, including one that appeared to be an intercontinental ballistic missile, which prompted Japan to issue an emergency alert to its citizens.

The presumed ICBM was fired from the Sunan international airfield in Pyongyang at 7:40 a.m., South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a text message to reporters.

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The missile traveled about 472 miles and reached an altitude of almost 1,200 miles at a top speed of Mach 15.

A pair of short-range ballistic missiles were launched around an hour later from Kaecheon, north of Pyongyang, the JCS said, and flew roughly 205 miles at an altitude of 43 miles.

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The South Korean military is monitoring the situation alongside the United States and will "maintain a firm readiness posture to overwhelmingly respond to any provocation from North Korea," the JCS said in a statement.

The U.S. State Department condemned the launch on Thursday, calling it a clear violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions.

The ICBM test "demonstrates the threat the DPRK's unlawful weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missile programs pose to its neighbors, the region, international peace and security, and the global non-proliferation regime," a State Department spokesperson said in a statement.

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The Democratic People's Republic of Korea is the official name of North Korea.

The spokesperson called on countries to fully implement U.N. sanctions against North Korea in order to "prohibit the DPRK from acquiring the technologies and materials needed to carry out these destabilizing tests."

Japanese defense officials also reported the launch, and the government issued emergency alerts for residents in at least three northern prefectures Thursday morning.

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"North Korea appears to have launched a missile," a message on the country's J-alert early warning said, according to news agency Kyodo. "Take shelter in a sturdy building or underground."

Initial reports from the Tokyo government said the missile flew over Japan, but the country's defense ministry later announced that it did not cross over the archipelago.

Thursday's launches come a day after Pyongyang fired a barrage of missiles, including one that landed south of the de facto maritime border with South Korea, prompting an air raid alert on the island of Ulleungdo and a retaliatory missile launch by Seoul.

North Korea has slammed the large-scale joint air drills being held this week by the United States and South Korea. The five-day exercise, called Vigilant Storm, kicked off on Monday and involves 240 aircraft, including F-35 stealth fighter jets.

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Pyongyang condemned what it called the "aggressive and provocative military drill" on Tuesday and warned that the United States and South Korea would pay a "terrible price" if they attacked the North.

Seoul and Washington decided to extend the training period of the Vigilant Storm exercise in response to North Korea's provocations, South Korea's air force announced Thursday in in a text message to reporters. Further details were not provided.

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