Sunday 14 May 2017

North Korea Tests Missiles Believed To Be Of Long Range

North Korea

North Korea has fired what Japan said could be a new type of missile, in an early diplomatic test for South Korea’s new president, Moon Jae-in.

Japan did not specify what type of missile was involved in Sunday’s launch, which came after Pyongyang indicated it was open to talks with the South on its ballistic missile and nuclear weapons programmes.

Moon called the launch a “reckless provocation” after holding an emergency meeting with his national security advisers, adding that it was a “clear violation” of UN security council resolutions banning North Korean missile tests.

The US Pacific Command confirmed a missile had been launched from a site in Kusong, north-west of the capital Pyongyang, but added that “the flight is not consistent with an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).”

Japanese and US military officials said it had flown about 800km before falling, without incident, in waters about 400km off the east coast of North Korea. Japan’s defence minister, Tomomi Inada, said the missile reached an altitude of 2,000km.

David Wright, co-director of the Global Security Programme at the Union of Concerned Scientists, said flight data suggested the missile could be more advanced than others in North Korea’s arsenal. “If the information that has been reported about the test are correct, the missile has considerably longer range than its current missiles,” he said.

Citing Japanese reports, Wright said the 30-minute flight time “would instead require a missile that was highly lofted, reaching an apogee of about 2,000km while splashing down at a range of 700km. If that same missile was flown on a standard trajectory, it would have a maximum range of about 4,500km.”

Wright added: This range is considerably longer than the estimated range of the Musudan missile, which showed a range of about 3,000km in a test last year.

He noted Guam, a US territory that houses a military base, is 3,400 km from North Korea. Reaching the US west coast would require a missile with a range of more than 8,000km. Hawaii is about 7,000km away.

The White House said on Sunday North Korea has been “a flagrant menace for far too long” and that President Donald Trump “cannot imagine that Russia is pleased” with North Korea’s latest missile test, saying the projectile landed close to Russian soil.

A spokeswoman for China’s foreign ministry, Hua Chunying, said in a statement the situation on the Korean peninsula was “complex and sensitive” and advised countries against doing “things that further escalate tensions in the region”.

Washington has previously warned that a test of an ICBM could be met with retaliation, including a possible military response. North Korea, however, has vowed to continue with its quest to marry a miniaturised nuclear warhead with a missile capable of reaching the US mainland to counter what it calls American “aggression”.

“The United States should never expect us to give up our nuclear capability,” the main Rodong newspaper said in a commentary carried by North Korea’s KCNA news agency at the weekend. The paper said the sole aim of Donald Trump’s “maximum pressure and engagement” policy was to “stifle” the North and would compel it to “strengthen our nuclear deterrent at the maximum speed”.

Most experts doubt the regime has developed an ICBM capable of reaching the US mainland.

Sunday’s launch – at a site last used in February to test an intermediate-range missile – took place just four days after Moon took office pledging to engage with the North while maintaining diplomatic pressure and sanctions.

North Korea used missile launches to gauge Donald Trump’s reaction soon after he became president, and could be attempting to do the same with Moon.

Moon, who won by a landslide after the impeachment of his predecessor, Park Geun-hye, over a corruption scandal, said at his inauguration he would be willing to visit Pyongyang to meet the regime’s leader, Kim Jong-un, if it meant bringing lasting peace to the Korean peninsula.

Yoon Young-chan, a press secretary at the presidential Blue House, said at a briefing: “[Moon] said while South Korea remains open to the possibility of dialogue with North Korea, it is only possible when North Korea shows a change in attitude.”

Moon has also stressed that he wishes to work closely with the US, despite scepticism in Washington over any early resumption of the “sunshine policy” of engagement pursued by liberal South Korean leaders in the 1990s and early 2000s.

Trump, however, has also expressed a willingness to meet Kim under certain conditions. On Saturday, a senior North Korean diplomat said Pyongyang was prepared to negotiate with Washington “if the conditions are set”.

Choe Son-hui, the director general for North American affairs at North Korea’s foreign ministry, did not elaborate on what those conditions were, but her comments raised the possibility of North Korea and the US returning to multiparty nuclear negotiations for the first time since 2008.

Japan’s prime minister, Shinzo Abe, said Sunday’s missile launch was “absolutely unacceptable”. Japan has lodged a protest to North Korea via its embassy in Beijing.

“These repeated missile launches by North Korea are a grave threat to our country and are in clear violation of UN security council resolutions,” Abe said.

Australia’s defence minister, Marise Payne, said: “Australia regards this as a reckless and provocative action that leads to instability both regional and globally and has condemned clearly in the past North Korea for this sort of behaviour and we do so again.”

Sunday’s launch is the first in two weeks since the last attempt to fire a missile ended in a failure just minutes into its flight. J

The north has attempted but failed to test-launch ballistic missiles on four occasions in the past two months but has conducted a variety of missile tests since the beginning of last year, at an unprecedented pace.

Weapons experts and government officials believe the north has accomplished some technical progress with those tests.



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