North will fire more missiles to warn US
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un called for more weapons launches targeting the Pacific Ocean to advance his country’s ability to contain Guam, state media said yesterday, a day after Pyongyang for the first time flew a ballistic missile designed to carry a nuclear payload over Japan.
Tuesday’s aggressive missile launch, likely the longest ever from North Korea, over a close US ally sends a clear message of defiance as Washington and Seoul conduct annual military drills. The Korean Central News Agency said the launch was a “muscle-flexing” countermeasure to the Ulchi Freedom Guardian joint exercises that conclude today. Pyongyang views the drills as invasion rehearsals and often conducts weapons tests and escalates its rhetoric when they are held.
The KCNA report said the missile was an intermediate-range Hwasong-12, which the North first successfully tested in May and threatened to fire into waters near Guam earlier this month.
Mr Kim expressed “great satisfaction” over the launch that he called a “meaningful prelude” to containing Guam and said North Korea would continue to watch the US demeanour before it decides on future actions, KCNA said.
The US territory is home to key US military bases that North Korea finds threatening. Mr Kim also said it was “necessary to positively push forward the work for putting the strategic force on a modern basis by conducting more ballistic rocket launching drills with the Pacific as a target in the future”.
The launch seemed designed to show that North Korea can back up a threat to target Guam, if it chooses to do so, while also establishing a potentially dangerous precedent that could see future missiles flying over Japan.
South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said the missile travelled around 2700km and reached a maximum altitude of 550km as it flew over the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido.
President Donald Trump said North Korea had signalled its “contempt for its neighbours” and that “all options are on the table” in terms of a US response.
The UN Security Council condemned the launch, which came less than a month after the council imposed its toughest sanctions on North Korea.
A statement released after a meeting in New York did not mention new sanctions but calls for strict implementation of existing ones.
Any new test worries Washington and its allies because it presumably puts North Korea a step closer to its goal of an arsenal of nuclear missiles that can reliably target the US. Tuesday’s test, however, looks especially aggressive to Washington, Seoul and Tokyo. North Korea has conducted launches at an unusually fast pace this year (13 times, Seoul says), and some analysts believe it could have viable longrange nuclear missiles before the end of Mr Trump’s first term in early 2021.
Seoul’s spy service said the North launched from the international airport in its capital, Pyongyang.
Observers said launching a road-mobile missile from an airport runway could demonstrate the North’s ability to fire its missiles Pictures: AP from anywhere in the country. Australia’s Foreign Minister Julie Bishop is hopeful the toughest sanctions ever imposed on North Korea will soon bite and is confident Russia and China will get on board.
“If they are applied universally then North Korea will feel the brunt of these sanctions and realise that a penalty has to be paid for its illegal and provocative behaviour,” she told Sky News.
She conceded US military options were available but said US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had assured her the US wants to explore every diplomatic and economic option first.
“I don’t accept that North Korea can’t be deterred,” Ms Bishop said.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull against urged China to act, saying it had the greatest leverage with North Korea.
“It has a unique ability to bring the North Korean regime to its senses by applying economic pressure,” he said.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has expressed his ‘great satisfaction’ at the launch.
The Hwasong-12 intermediate range missile blasts off.