U.S. says North Korea is testing a new long-range missile system: 'A serious escalation'

File footage of North Korean missile test.
(Image credit: ANTHONY WALLACE/AFP via Getty Images)

The Biden administration revealed Thursday that North Korea has recently begun testing a new intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), in what one official described as "a serious escalation" of the isolated nation's long-range missile program, The New York Times and The Washington Post report.

The official said a pair of ballistic missile tests on Feb. 26 and March 4 were actually meant to try out parts of the new system ahead of its full launch, the Post reports. It also seems that, unlike in the past, North Korea tried to hide the nature of the tests, the Times notes.

It is unclear at this time whether North Korean leader Kim Jong-un purposely ordered the tests while both Europe and the U.S. were distracted with other pressing matters — namely, the Russian invasion of Ukraine. American forces in the region are moving missile defense units into a state of "enhanced readiness" for another launch believed to be coming soon, per the Times.

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"These launches are a brazen violation of multiple United Nations Security Council resolutions, needlessly raise tensions, and risk destabilizing the security situation in the region," the official said, per the Post. Multiple resolutions prohibit North Korea from firing ICBMs, notes The Associated Press.

In response, the U.S. will on Friday announce a fresh round of sanctions meant to hinder North Korea's capability to bolster its weapons programs, AP notes.

The official also noted that neither of the recent launches "demonstrated ICBM range of capability," per NBC News. The U.S. said it decided to reveal this information publicly in hopes of galvanizing the international community to speak out against it.

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Brigid Kennedy

Brigid is a staff writer at The Week and a graduate of Syracuse University's S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications. Her passions include improv comedy, David Fincher films, and breakfast food. She lives in New York.