North Korea confirmed it fired a new "Hwasong-17" intercontinental ballistic missile under the guidance of leader Kim Jong Un, state-run media reported Friday, jeopardizing regional security and reminding the United States of the threat the nation can pose.
Thursday's launch came at a time when the United States and its security allies have been occupied with Russia's invasion of Ukraine and when North Korea's economy has been facing a severe downturn amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Following the latest launch of the ICBM, called by military analysts a "monster missile," the administration of U.S. President Joe Biden has decided to levy additional sanctions on North Korea in a bid to curb its ballistic missile development.
The ICBM, fired from Pyongyang International Airport, was claimed to have traveled up to a maximum altitude of 6,248.5 kilometers and a distance of 1,090 km on its 68-minute flight before hitting a target in the Sea of Japan, according to the official Korean Central News Agency.
Kim was quoted by KCNA as saying North Korea has been "fully ready for long-standing confrontation with the U.S. imperialists," as bilateral talks between Washington and Pyongyang on denuclearization and sanctions relief have been stalled for more than two years.
The leader said the Hwasong-17, which could deliver a nuclear warhead anywhere in the continental United States, was "completed as a core strike means and a reliable nuclear war deterrence means" of North Korea, the news agency reported.
Kim "gave a written order" to conduct the test of the new type of ICBM on Wednesday and visited the launch site on Thursday, KCNA said.
The Rodong Sinmun, the mouthpiece of the ruling Workers' Party of Korea, on Friday ran photos of a missile believed to be the Hwasong-17 that resembles one displayed at a military parade staged in October 2020.
Later Friday, the state-run Korean Central Television also broadcast video footage of Kim, dressed in a black leather jacket with dark glasses, and his aides watching the missile blasting off.
The ICBM, carried on a launch vehicle with 22 wheels, fell within Japan's exclusive economic zone in the Sea of Japan about 150 km west of the Oshima Peninsula on the nation's northernmost main island of Hokkaido.
A Japanese government official said it was possibly the closest a North Korean missile has landed to the Japanese archipelago. The Defense Ministry said the missile was launched on a trajectory that limited its distance of travel.
Foreign ministers of the Group of Seven countries issued a statement Friday in which they "strongly condemn the continued testing of ballistic missiles" by North Korea, saying the country "has abandoned its self-declared moratorium on ICBM launches" with the latest test.
"We call on the DPRK to accept the repeated offers of dialogue put forward by all parties concerned, including the United States, the Republic of Korea and Japan," the statement said, referring to the acronym of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, North Korea's official name.
The United States and North Korea remain technically in a state of war as the 1950-1953 Korean War -- in which U.S.-led U.N. forces fought alongside South Korea against the North supported by China and the Soviet Union -- ended in a cease-fire, not a peace treaty.
Many foreign affairs experts said North Korea is likely to keep testing weapons in accordance with its plan set out at the congress of the Workers' Party of Korea in January 2021.
At the key party meeting, Kim promised to develop ICBMs that use solid fuel to shorten prelaunch preparations while vowing to secure reconnaissance abilities with satellite systems.
Long-range ballistic missiles that can carry warheads and rockets capable of delivering satellites use similar technology. North Korea is banned from launching ballistic missiles under Security Council resolutions imposing sanctions on the nation.
Pyongyang formally declared in April 2018, two months before the first-ever U.S.-North Korea summit, that it would discontinue nuclear tests and intercontinental ballistic rocket firings.
Recently, however, North Korea said it may restart all "activities" it had temporarily suspended to build trust with former U.S. President Donald Trump, Biden's predecessor, while asking Washington to drop its "hostile policy."
At their meeting in June 2018 in Singapore, Trump agreed with Kim that the United States would provide security guarantees to North Korea in return for "complete" denuclearization.
But afterward, they fell short of bridging the gap between Washington's demands and Pyongyang's calls for sanctions relief.
North Korea, which claims no COVID-19 infections have been found in the country, has kept its borders largely sealed since early 2020 to prevent the entry of the coronavirus, first detected in the central Chinese city of Wuhan in late 2019.
As travel restrictions have weighed on North Korea's trade with China and dealt a heavy blow to the nation's broader economy, Kim has been attempting to urge the United States to ease sanctions designed to thwart Pyongyang's nuclear and missile ambitions, pundits say.
Nevertheless, hours after KCNA reported on Thursday's ICBM launch, the U.S. State Department said it slapped fresh sanctions against five entities and individuals in Russia and North Korea over transferring important items to Pyongyang's missile program.