Early warning American military systems warned that a North Korean missile launched earlier this week could hit as far as the coast of California or the Aleutian Islands, according to a US media report.
On Tuesday morning, North Korea launched a missile which initial telemetry readings from the United States suggested could hit the country but actually landed in the sea between Japan and China.
Two sources familiar with the issue told CNN on Sunday that they believe that the North Korean missile was designed to avoid missile defenses and were similar to a hypersonic glide.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) grounded a number of West Coast fights on Monday afternoon (local time) around the time of the missile launch.
However, later on North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) determined those initial reads were incorrect.
“As a matter of precaution, the FAA temporarily paused departures at some airports along the West Coast on Monday evening. Full operations resumed in less than 15 minutes. The FAA regularly takes precautionary measures. We are reviewing the process around this ground stop as we do after all such events,” the FAA said in a statement.
An American member of Congress who had been given a briefing of the events said that military officials did not immediately “have a good feel” for the North Korean missile’s capabilities and described the situation as “ugly.”
“NORAD followed established procedures to gather information and coordinate with other military commands, allies, and security partners. NORAD determined that there was no credible threat and therefore did not issue a warning of a missile threat to Canada or the United States,” Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby said in a statement.
“NORAD is committed to working closely with our interagency partners to ensure they understand normal process and procedures. We refer to FAA’s statement that they initiated a ground stop for less than 15 minutes as a precaution and are reviewing the process for their decision,” he continued.
On Friday, North Korea fired two more ballistic missiles, which South Korea detected.
North Korea’s state news agency KCNA said on Saturday that the tests were held to “check and judge the proficiency in the action procedures of the railway-borne regiment.”
KCNA said Friday’s launches “demonstrated high maneuverability and rate of hits,” adding that, “Issues were discussed to set up proper railway-borne missile operating system across the country.”
South Korea’s military said Friday it had detected what it presumed were two short-range ballistic missiles (SRBMs) launched eastward from North Pyongan Province on the west coast of North Korea, near the border with China.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has called North Korea’s missile tests “profoundly destabilizing”.
“We are very focused with allies and partners in making sure that they and we are properly defended and that there are repercussions, consequences for these actions by North Korea,” Blinken said in an interview with MSNBC.
The administration of US President Joe Biden on Wednesday imposed its first sanctions. Washington also called on the United Nations Security Council to take action against several North Korean individuals and entities accused of violating resolutions that ban North Korea’s missile and nuclear weapons development.
A North Korean foreign ministry spokesperson said in a statement the new sanctions underscore hostile American intent aimed at “isolating and stifling” the North despite Washington’s repeated calls for Pyongyang to resume diplomacy.
“The US is intentionally escalating the situation even with the activation of independent sanctions, not content with referring the DPRK’s just activity to the UN Security Council,” the statement said.
The spokesperson said that the North’s development of the new missile is part of its efforts to modernize its military and explained that it does not target any specific country or threaten the security of its neighbors.