Seoul, South Korea (CNN)North Korea has fired what is believed to be its first intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) in more than four years as Western leaders gather in Brussels for a security summit.
The suspected ICBM flew to an altitude of 6,000 kilometers (3,728 miles), landing in waters off Japan’s western coast on Thursday, according to Japan’s Defense Ministry.
The altitude would suggest it is a “new type of ICBM,” Japan’s Vice Defense Minister Makoto Oniki told reporters Thursday. The missile landed inside Japan’s Exclusive Economic Zone, 170 kilometers (106 miles) west of Cape Tappi on the northern tip of Japan’s main island of Honshu, Oniki said.
Thursday’s launch is North Korea’s 11th of the year, including one on March 16 which is presumed to have failed, and its longest-range test since November 2017, when it sent a Hwasong-15 missile to an altitude of 4,475 kilometers (2,800 miles).
On Thursday, world leaders will meet in the Belgian capital for what has been described as an extraordinary NATO summit, as they seek to align their responses to Russia’s brutal invasion of Ukraine. A European Council and G7 meeting will also take place Thursday.
According to analysts, the recent spate of North Korean missile tests suggest the country’s leader, Kim Jong Un, is attempting show an increasingly turbulent world that Pyongyang remains a player in the struggle for power and influence.
“By threatening to destabilize Asia while global resources are stretched thin elsewhere, Pyongyang is demanding the world pay it to act like a ‘responsible nuclear power,'” Leif-Eric Easley, associate professor of international studies at Ewha Womans University in Seoul, told CNN in January this year.
Pyongyang’s other most recent launches, on February 26 and March 4, were likely intended to test a new ICBM system, the US Defense Department said earlier this month.
The US Indo-Pacific Command announced earlier this month that the US is intensifying “intelligence, readiness and surveillance collection activities” related to North Korea following the recent spate of missile launches.
The move is a signal from the Biden administration that it needs to strengthen its military posture to ensure the US and allies in the region like South Korea and Japan are protected against North Korea’s missile tests.
The command said they have “ordered intensified Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance collection activities in the Yellow Sea, as well as enhanced readiness among our ballistic missile defense forces in the region.”
Last week, the US military staged exercises on and around the Korean Peninsula to show its readiness in the wake of North Korean activity, including simulating ballistic missile defense systems.
The US Army’s 35th Air Defense Artillery Brigade moved to a remote location, “occupying its wartime defensive position, emplacing the Patriot missile system, and executing air and missile defense operations under a simulated combat scenario,” US Forces Korea said in a press release.
And at sea, F-35 and F/A-18 fighter jets flying off the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln along with US Air Force assets based in the region put on a show of force in the Yellow Sea off the western coast of South Korea, according to a statement from the US Navy’s 7th Fleet in Japan.
Thursday’s [potential launch also comes just two weeks after South Korea elected a new conservative President, Yoon Suk Yeol, who is expected to take a harder line against North Korea than the current office holder, Moon Jae-in.
This story has been updated to clarify the location of missile.