North Korea on Tuesday fired what appeared to be a ballistic missile into its eastern sea, its second launch in a week, following leader Kim Jong Un’s calls to expand its nuclear-weapons program in defiance of international opposition.
The launches follow a series of weapons tests in 2021 that underscored how North Korea is continuing to expand its military capabilities during a self-imposed pandemic lockdown and deadlocked nuclear talks with the United States.
South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said North Korea fired what likely was a ballistic missile from the area of the northern province Jagang. It said the weapon flew 700 kilometers, or 434 miles, at a maximum speed of around Mach 10 before landing in waters off its eastern coast, demonstrating a more advanced capability than North Korea’s launch last week.
The North’s state media described the earlier launch as a successful test of a hypersonic missile, a type of weaponry it claimed to have first tested in September.
The launch corresponded with an order issued to ground some flights on the U.S. West Coast.
Sabrina LoPiccolo, a spokesperson for San Diego International Airport, told AP that it halted flights for up to seven minutes over a “national ground stop” at 2:30 p.m. local time, which was just minutes after the launch. She referred further questions to the Federal Aviation Administration, which did not respond to a request for comment.
Air-traffic controllers in other West Coast areas similarly ordered aircraft down, according to recordings shared online. A San Francisco air traffic controller ordered flights to avoid its airspace and not take off or land around the time without explaining why, according to a recording by the website LiveATC.net.
“Things are changing really quick,” the air traffic controller said in the recording, adding later: “I just heard something about ground-stopping all aircraft, so I don’t know anything, just hold tight there.”
An air-traffic controller at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport similarly told aircraft in the region they received an order for a “ground stop, all aircraft, all airports.” Air traffic controllers at Los Angeles International Airport also acknowledged receiving an order to stop departures at the same time, without explanation, according to another recording.
The launch came six days after North Korea fired a missile into the sea in what it described as a successful test of a hypersonic missile.