Second long-range missile test puts 'entire' US in range - North Korea

2017-07-29 11:19
North Korea missile launch (File, STR/KCNA VIA KNS/AFP)

North Korea missile launch (File, STR/KCNA VIA KNS/AFP)

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Pyongyang – North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said on Saturday the second flight test of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) demonstrated his country can hit the US mainland, hours after the launch left analysts concluding that a wide swathe of the United States, including Los Angeles and Chicago, is now in range of North Korean weapons.

The Korean Central News Agency said that Kim expressed "great satisfaction" after the Hwasong-14 missile reached a maximum height of 3,725km and travelled 998km before accurately landing in waters off Japan. The agency said that the test was aimed at confirming the maximum range and other technical aspects of the missile it says was capable of delivering a "large-sized, heavy nuclear warhead".

Analysts had estimated that the North's first ICBM on July 4 could have reached Alaska, and said that the latest missile appeared to extend that range significantly.

Immediately after the launch, US and South Korean forces conducted live-fire exercises. South Korean Defence Minister Song Young-moo called for the deployment of strategic US military assets – which usually means stealth bombers and aircraft carriers – as well as additional launchers of an advanced US anti-missile system.

Japanese government spokesperson Yoshihide Suga said the missile, launched late on Friday night, flew for about 45 minutes – about five minutes longer than the first. The missile was launched on a very high trajectory, which limited the distance it travelled, and landed west of Japan's island of Hokkaido.

The KCNA quoted Kim as saying that the launch reaffirmed the reliability of the country's ICBM system and an ability to fire at "random regions and locations at random times" with the "entire" US mainland now within range.

The agency said that the test confirmed important features of the missile system, such as the proper separation of the warhead and controlling its movement and detonation after atmospheric re-entry.

Kim said the launch sent a "serious warning" to the United States, which has been "meaninglessly blowing its trumpet" with threats of war and stronger sanctions, the KCNA said.

On the streets of Pyongyang, North Koreans welcomed the news of their country's latest missile test while state media broadcast images of a projectile launched into the night sky. Kim Jong Un was seen in the company of military commanders near a mobile missile launcher.

Theoretical range of 10 400km

"I feel really confident. From now on, we will develop and have the strongest weapons, strategic weapons, so we can safeguard our sovereignty and independence, so that we can end up winning against the imperialists and against America," said Pak Gi Nam, a student. It is normal for North Koreans talking in front of TV cameras to stick to the official version of events.

The North Korean flight data was similar to assessments by the United States, South Korea and Japan.

David Wright, a physicist and co-director of the global security programme at the Union of Concerned Scientists, said that if reports of the missile's maximum altitude and flight time are correct, it would have a theoretical range of at least 10 400km. That means it could have reached Los Angeles, Denver or Chicago, depending on variables such as the size and weight of the warhead that would be carried atop such a missile in an actual attack.

President Donald Trump issued a statement condemning the missile test as a threat to the world, and rejecting North Korea's claim that nuclear weapons ensure its security. "In reality, they have the opposite effect," he said.

Trump said the weapons and tests "further isolate North Korea, weaken its economy, and deprive its people". He vowed to "take all necessary steps" to ensure the security of the US and its allies.

Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida said he told US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in a phone call that the second missile test greatly increased the threat from Pyongyang. He said the two sides agreed to consider all means necessary to exert the utmost pressure on North Korea. They reiterated calls for new sanctions and to work closely together with South Korea along with efforts by China and Russia.

China, meanwhile, urged its ally North Korea to abide by UN Security Council resolutions and halt any moves that could escalate tensions on the Korean Peninsula.

Washington and its allies have watched with growing concern as Pyongyang has made significant progress toward its goal of having all of the US within range of its missiles to counter what it labels as US aggression.

Stronger, additional sanctions

There are other hurdles, including building nuclear warheads to fit on those missiles and ensuring reliability. But many analysts have been surprised by how quickly leader Kim Jong Un has developed North Korea's nuclear and missile programmes despite several rounds of UN Security Council sanctions that have squeezed the impoverished country's economy.

Trump has said he will not allow North Korea to obtain an ICBM that can deliver a nuclear warhead. But this week, the Defence Intelligence Agency reportedly concluded that the North will have a reliable ICBM capable of carrying a nuclear weapon as early as next year, in an assessment that trimmed two years from the agency's earlier estimate.

The French Foreign Ministry condemned the launch and called for "strong and additional sanctions" by the United Nations and European Union. "Only maximal diplomatic pressure might bring North Korea to the negotiating table," the ministry said in a statement.

"This is a 4G threat: global, grave, given and growing," France's UN Ambassador Francois Delattre told The Associated Press. That's why we call for a firm and quick reaction including the adoption of strong additional sanctions by the Security Council."

A spokesperson for General Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that Dunford met at the Pentagon with the commander of US forces in the Pacific, Admiral Harry Harris, to discuss US military options in light of North Korea's missile test.

The spokesperson, Navy Capt. Greg Hicks, said Dunford and Harris placed a phone call to Dunford's South Korean counterpart, General Lee Sun Jin. Dunford and Harris "expressed the ironclad commitment to the US-Republic of Korea alliance," Hicks said, referring to the US defence treaty that obliges the US to defend South Korea.

Abe, too, said Japan would co-operate closely with the US, South Korea and other nations to step up pressure on North Korea to halt its missile programmes.

The Hwasong 14 ICBM test-fired earlier this month was also launched at a very steep angle, a technique called lofting, and reached a height of more than 2 500km before splashing down in the ocean 930km away. Analysts said that missile could be capable of reaching most of Alaska or possibly Hawaii if fired in an attacking trajectory.

South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff said the missile was launched from North Korea's northern Jagang province near the border with China. President Moon Jae-in presided over an emergency meeting of the National Security Council, which called for an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council and stronger sanctions on North Korea.

July 27 is a major national holiday in North Korea, called Victory in the Fatherland Liberation War Day, marking the day when the armistice was signed ending the 1950-53 Korean War. That armistice is yet to be replaced with a peace treaty, leaving the Korean Peninsula technically in a state of war.

Read more on:    us  |  north korea  |  nuclear weapons

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