US intelligence services assess whether North Korea tested a missile with novel properties

North Korea’s launch of three ballistic missiles on Wednesday included one that followed an unusual trajectory, officials said. The missile had a flight path that two officials described as a “double arc” with the missile rising and then descending twice.

The trajectory may indicate the goal was to test North Korea’s ability to fire a missile and re-enter the Earth’s atmosphere to hit a target, according to two of the officials.

The second phase of the missile’s possible “double arc” may have been a re-entry vehicle detaching from the main missile. The United States is not yet entirely sure if this was all part of the planned flight path, an official said.

The assessment of U.S. intelligence on the three test launches is still in the preliminary stages, officials said.

The missile tests followed US President Joe Biden’s trip to the region, which included a stopover in South Korea.

It is unclear which of the three missiles launched had the unusual flight pattern. Japan had publicly hinted that one of the missiles was flying unusually, with Japanese Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi calling it an “irregular trajectory”.

South Korea said a suspected ICBM was fired at around 6 a.m. local time on Wednesday with a flight range of around 360 kilometers (223 miles) and an altitude of around 540 kilometers (335 miles) .

At around 6:37 a.m. local time on Wednesday, North Korea fired a second ballistic missile – believed not to be an ICBM – which appears to have disappeared from South Korean tracking at an altitude of 20 kilometers (12 miles), it said. South Korea. . A preliminary assessment indicated that it was possible the missile flew over a populated area of ​​North Korea.

The third missile, believed to be a short-range ballistic missile (SRBM), traveled about 760 kilometers (472 miles) and had an altitude of 60 kilometers (37 miles), South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff said. .

US Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield confirmed that one missile had intercontinental range in a statement: “The DPRK’s May 25 launch of three ballistic missiles included another launch of ICBMs The United States estimates that this is the sixth ICBM launch by the DPRK since the start of 2022.” She warned that the regime has launched 23 ballistic missiles since the start of the year and is “actively preparing to carry out a nuclear test”.

The trio of launches, which took place in the space of an hour, come as North Korea prepares for its first underground nuclear test since 2017. South Korea on Wednesday detected signs that North Korea North was testing a detonation device for a nuclear test, which could be a precursor to an actual test, a South Korean official told reporters on Wednesday.

Following the launches, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin held a secure call with South Korean Defense Minister Lee Jong-sup “to discuss assessments and response measures to the recent Democratic People’s Republic ballistic missile launches. of Korea (DPRK),” according to a Pentagon statement.

The latest launches mark the 16th time North Korea has tested its missiles this year, including what the United States believes was a failed ICBM test on May 4 that detonated shortly after launch.

But North Korea reportedly tested an ICBM in late March.

This missile flew at an altitude of 6,000 kilometers (3,728 miles) and a distance of 1,080 kilometers (671 miles) with a flight time of 71 minutes before crashing in the waters off the west coast of the Japan, according to the Japanese Ministry of Defense.

CNN’s Gawon Bae contributed to this report.

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