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North Korea claims it tested its first intercontinental missile, contradicting South Korean and U.S. officials

A missile is displayed in a North Korean military parade in Pyongyang in April 2017.
(Wong Maye-E / Associated Press)

North Korea is claiming to have test-launched its first intercontinental ballistic missile.

This appears to contradict South Korean and U.S. officials who earlier said Tuesday’s launch was of an intermediate-range missile.

The North has previously conducted satellite launches that critics say were disguised tests of its long-range missile technology. But a test-launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile, if confirmed, would be considered a game-changer by countries looking to check North Korea’s push for a nuclear-armed missile that can reach anywhere in the United States.

The test still may be the North’s most successful yet; a weapon analyst says missile could be powerful enough to reach Alaska.

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Just last week South Korean President Moon Jae-in and U.S. President Trump focused much of their first meeting on opposing North Korea’s development of atomic weapons that threaten both allies.

Japan’s government said the missile was believed to have landed in Japan’s exclusive economic zone in the Sea of Japan but no damage to ships or aircraft in the area has been reported.

Japan’s prime minister, Shinzo Abe, sharply criticized North Korea for the launch, adding it was a reminder that Pyongyang’s missile development is a growing threat.

“North Korea once again forced its missile launch despite a repeated warning from the international society,” Abe said. “The latest launch clearly showed that the threat is growing.”

Abe, who talked by phone with Trump on Monday, said that the two leaders reaffirmed their strong cooperation and that they plan to seek further cooperation by the international society when they attend the G20 summit in Germany.

China’s U.N. ambassador, Liu Jieyi, warned Monday that further escalation of already high tensions with North Korea risks getting out of control, “and the consequences would be disastrous.”

The Korean Peninsula has been divided between the American-backed South and the authoritarian North since the 1950-53 Korean War. Worries have increased as the North’s leader, Kim Jong Un, pushes to expand his nuclear arsenal and develop ballistic missiles that can carry nuclear warheads.

Tuesday’s launch is the first by the North since a June 8 test of a new type of cruise missile that Pyongyang says is capable of striking U.S. and South Korean warships “at will.”

Since taking office on May 10, Moon has tried to improve strained ties with North Korea, but the North has continued its missile tests. Pyongyang says it needs nuclear weapons and powerful missiles to cope with what it calls rising U.S. military threats.

ALSO: As the world focuses on its nuclear ambitions, North Korea deploys another weapon: drones »

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UPDATES:

11:55 p.m.: This article was updated with North Korea claiming it was an intercontinental missile.

8:45 p.m.: This article was updated with comments from the Japanese prime minister.

6:50 p.m.: This article was updated and rewritten throughout.

This article was originally published at 6:20 p.m.


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