North Korea has successfully test-fired a new type of medium-to long-range ballistic missile, claiming further advancement in a weapons program it is pursuing in violation of United Nations resolutions.
North Korea fired the ballistic missile on a high arc into the sea early on Sunday, the first test of U.S. President Donald Trump’s vow to get tough on an isolated regime that tested nuclear devices and ballistic missiles last year at an unprecedented rate.
From Daily Mail
The North’s state-run KCNA news agency said leader Kim Jong Un supervised the test of the Pukguksong-2, a new type of strategic weapon that can launch faster, is easier to hide from satellites and is capable of carrying a nuclear warhead.
KCNA said the missile was fired at a high angle in consideration of the safety of neighbouring countries. A South Korean military source said on Sunday the missile reached an altitude of 550 km (340 miles).
It flew about 500 km towards Japan, landing off the east coast of the Korean peninsula.
The missile was propelled by a solid fuel engine and was an upgraded, extended-range version of its submarine-launched ballistic missile that was tested successfully last August, according to KCNA.
South Korea’s military said on Monday the missile had been launched using a ‘cold-eject’ system, whereby it is initially lifted by compressed gas before flying under the power of its rocket, a system used for submarine-launched missiles.
North Korea’s pursuit of large solid-fuelled missiles was ‘a very concerning development’, said Jonathan McDowell of the Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.
‘This new rocket is the type that we should be much more worried about. Solid fuel rockets can be launched at short notice without much preparation,’ he said in an email.
‘Large solid fuel motors are difficult to make work correctly so this is indeed a significant advance by North Korea,’ McDowell said.
In addition to launching more quickly, solid fuel engines also boost the power and range of ballistic rockets.
‘Solid-motor engines mean that the fuel is pre-stored and the missile can be launched quickly. For example, rolled out of a cave, tunnel, or bridge,’ said Melissa Hanham, a senior research associate at the U.S.-based Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, California.
‘They are also more difficult to track by satellite because they have fewer support vehicles in their entourage.’
The test also verified a ‘feature of evading interception’ and ‘the mobility and operation of the new type missile launching truck’, KCNA reported.
The North’s Rodong Sinmun newspaper showed pictures of a missile fired from a mobile launch vehicle resembling a tank, with a flame appearing only after it had risen clear of the vehicle.
The United States, Japan and South Korea requested urgent U.N. Security Council consultations on the test, with a meeting expected on Monday afternoon, an official in the U.S. mission to the United Nations said.
Japan said on Monday further sanctions against Pyongyang could be discussed at the United Nations, and called on China to take a ‘constructive’ role in responding to the latest launch.
China is North Korea’s main ally and trading partner but is irritated by Pyongyang’s repeated provocations, although it resists calls from the United States and others that it should be doing more to rein in its neighbour.
‘We have asked China via various levels to take constructive actions as a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council and we will continue to work on it. At the same time, Japan will continue to urge North Korea to exercise self-restraint from provocative actions and comply with U.N. resolutions,’ Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said on Monday.
China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang on Monday said it opposed the launch.
However, Beijing counters that its influence is overstated and suggests that Washington’s refusal to talk directly to North Korea is impeding progress toward a solution.
“The root cause of the (North Korean) nuclear missile issue is its differences with the U.S. and South Korea,” Geng told reporters at a regular briefing.
Geng said China, a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council, has been “completely and comprehensively” implementing Security Council resolutions on the nuclear issue. He said Beijing “has been striving for a settlement of the Korean Peninsula issue by proactively engaging in mediation and promoting peace talks.”
Although generally dismissive of sanctions, Beijing has signed on to successive rounds under the U.N. Security Council, and last month banned more items from being exported to North Korea, including plutonium and dual-use technologies that could aid its nuclear program.
Geng urged all sides to refrain from provocative action and said China would continue participating in Security Council discussions in a constructive and responsible way.
North Korea has conducted five nuclear tests, including two last year, although its claims to be able to miniaturise a nuclear weapon to be mounted on a missile have never been verified independently.
Before Sunday, the North’s two most recent missile tests had taken place in October. Both were of intermediate-range Musudan missiles and both failed, according to U.S. and South Korean officials.
A U.S. official said at the weekend the Trump administration had been expecting a North Korean ‘provocation’ soon after taking office.
The latest test came a day after Trump held a summit meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, and also followed Trump’s phone call last week with Chinese President Xi Jinping.
How North Korea’s missile programme has grown
Late 1970s: North Korea starts working on a version of the Soviet Scud-B (range 300 kilometres or 186 miles). Test-fired in 1984
1987-92: Begins developing variant of Scud-C (500 km), Rodong-1 (1,300 km), Taepodong-1 (2,500 km), Musudan-1 (3,000 km) and Taepodong-2 (6,700 km)
Aug 1998: Test-fires Taepodong-1 over Japan as part of failed satellite launch
Sept 1999: Declares moratorium on long-range missile tests amid improving ties with US
July 12, 2000: Fifth round of US-North Korean missile talks ends without agreement after North demands $1 billion a year in return for halting missile exports
March 3, 2005: North ends moratorium on long-range missile testing, blames Bush administration’s “hostile” policy
July 5, 2006: Test-fires seven missiles, including a long-range Taepodong-2 which explodes after 40 secondsThe reclusive regime carried out more than 20 missile tests last year, one of which reached Japanese-controlled waters after a launch in August. Pictured is a map of the North Korea missile test
July 15, 2006: UN Security Council adopts Resolution 1695, demanding halt to all ballistic missile activity and banning trade in missile-related items with the North
Oct 9, 2006: North conducts underground nuclear test, its first
Oct 14, 2006: Security Council approves Resolution 1718, demanding a halt to missile and nuclear tests
April 5, 2009: North launches long-range rocket which flies over Japan and lands in the Pacific, in what it says is an attempt to put a satellite into orbit. The United States, Japan and South Korea suspect it is a disguised test of a Taepodong-2
April 13, 2009: UN Security Council unanimously condemns launch, agrees to tighten sanctions. North quits nuclear disarmament talks in protest, vows to restart its plutonium programme
May 25, 2009: Second underground nuclear test, several times more powerful than the first
June 12, 2009: Security Council passes Resolution 1874, imposing tougher sanctions on the North’s atomic and ballistic missile programmes
Feb 18, 2011: Satellite images show the North has built a launch tower at a complex on the west coast
December 31, 2011: Kim Jong-Un declared the North’s “supreme leader” during memorial ceremonies for his late father Kim Jong-Il
April 13, 2012: North launches what it has said is a long-range rocket to put a satellite into orbit, but it disintegrates soon after blast-off and falls into the ocean
December 12, 2012: A multi-stage rocket successfully places an Earth observational satellite in orbit
February 12, 2013: Third underground nuclear test
January 6, 2016: Fourth underground nuclear test. North says it was a hydrogen bomb – a claim doubted by most experts
February 7, 2016: North says its second successful space rocket launch has placed another Earth observation satellite in orbit
March 9, 2016: Leader Kim Jong-Un claims the North has successfully miniaturised a thermo-nuclear warhead
April 15, 2016: Failed attempt to test-fire what appears to be a medium-range missile on the birthday of founding leader Kim Il-Sung
April 23, 2016: North test fires a submarine-launched ballistic missile
July 8, 2016: US and South Korea announce plans to deploy an advanced missile defence system – the US THAAD (Terminal High Altitude Area Defence)
August 3, 2016: North fires a ballistic missile directly into Japanese-controlled waters for the first time
August 24, 2016: Successfully test-fires a submarine-launched ballistic missile, in what it says is retaliation for large-scale South Korea-US military exercises.
September 5, 2016: Fires three ballistic missiles off its east coast as top world leaders meet at the G20 summit in China
September 9, 2016: Fifth nuclear test
October 15, 2016: An intermediate-range Musudan missile, theoretically capable of reaching US bases on Guam, is tested but explodes shortly after launch
February 3, 2017: US Defense Secretary James Mattis warns of an “effective and overwhelming” response to any nuclear attack by the North
February 7, 2017: US and Japan conduct the first interception of a ballistic missile target using a jointly-built ship-launched missile, that successfully hits its target in space
February 12, 2017: North conducts new ballistic missile test. The missile is launched near the western city of Kusong and flies east about 500 kilometres (310 miles) before falling into the Sea of Japan (East Sea)
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