In test­ing mis­sile, North Korea chal­lenges South’s new leader


Just five days af­ter South Korea elected a pres­i­dent who ex­pressed a de­sire to reach out to North Korea, Py­ongyang sent a chal­lenge to its ri­val’s new leader on Sun­day by test-fir­ing a bal­lis­tic mis­sile.

The mis­sile flew for half an hour and reached an un­usu­ally high alti­tude be­fore land­ing in the Sea of Ja­pan, the South Korean, Ja­panese and U.S. mil­i­taries said. Tokyo said the flight pat­tern could in­di­cate a new type of mis­sile.

The launch jeop­ar­dizes new South Korean Pres­i­dent Moon Jae-in’s will­ing­ness for di­a­logue with the North, and came as U.S., Ja­panese and Euro­pean navies gather for joint war games in the Pa­cific.

“The pres­i­dent ex­pressed deep re­gret over the fact that this reck­less provo­ca­tion ... oc­curred just days af­ter a new govern­ment was launched in South Korea,” se­nior pres­i­den­tial sec­re­tary Yoon Young-chan said. “The pres­i­dent said we are leav­ing open the pos­si­bil­ity of di­a­logue with North Korea, but we should sternly deal with a provo­ca­tion to pre­vent North Korea from mis­cal­cu­lat­ing.”

Moon, South Korea’s first lib­eral leader in nearly a decade, said as he took his oath of of­fice last week that he’d be will­ing to visit the North if the cir­cum­stances were right.

The UN Se­cu­rity Coun­cil said Sun­day it will hold ur­gent con­sul­ta­tions on North Korea’s lat­est bal­lis­tic mis­sile test at the re­quest of the United States, Ja­pan and South Korea. Uruguay holds the coun­cil pres­i­dency this month and its UN Mission an­nounced the closed con­sul­ta­tions will be held on Tues­day af­ter­noon.

U.S. Am­bas­sador Nikki Ha­ley said on ABC tele­vision’s Ge­orge Stephanopolous show Sun­day that the U.S. has been work­ing well with China, Py­ongyang’s clos­est ally, and she raised the pos­si­bil­ity of new sanc­tions against North Korea in­clud­ing on oil im­ports.

The Se­cu­rity Coun­cil has adopted six in­creas­ingly tougher sanc­tions res­o­lu­tions against North Korea

U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s ad­min­is­tra­tion has called North Korean bal­lis­tic and nu­clear ef­forts un­ac­cept­able, but he has swung be­tween threats of mil­i­tary ac­tion and of­fers to talk as it for­mu­lates a pol­icy.

While Trump has said he’d be “hon­oured” to talk with leader Kim Jong Un un­der favourable con­di­tions, his ad­min­is­tra­tion on Sun­day seemed to throw cold water on the idea of talks with North Korea.

“Hav­ing a mis­sile test is not the way to sit down with the pres­i­dent, be­cause he’s ab­so­lutely not go­ing to do it,” Nikki Ha­ley, the U.S. am­bas­sador to the United Na­tions, told ABC’s “This Week.”

She said it was time to “send a strong, uni­fied mes­sage that this is un­ac­cept­able, and I think you’ll see the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity do that.”

While it wasn’t im­me­di­ately clear what type of mis­sile was launched, the U.S. Pa­cific Com­mand said that “the flight is not con­sis­tent with an in­ter­con­ti­nen­tal bal­lis­tic mis­sile.”

North Korea’s past satel­lite rocket launches have been called clan­des­tine tests of ICBM tech­nol­ogy, but it is not be­lieved to have tested a true in­ter­con­ti­nen­tal bal­lis­tic mis­sile yet.

Ja­panese of­fi­cials said the mis­sile flew for about 30 min­utes, trav­el­ling about 800 kilo­me­tres and reach­ing an un­usu­ally high alti­tude of 2,000 kilo­me­tres.

David Wright, co-di­rec­tor of the Global Se­cu­rity Pro­gram at the Union of Con­cerned Sci­en­tists, said the mis­sile could have a range of 4,500 kilo­me­tres if flown on a stan­dard, in­stead of a lofted, tra­jec­tory — con­sid­er­ably longer than Py­ongyang’s cur­rent mis­siles. He said Sun­day’s launch — the sev­enth such fir­ing by North Korea this year — may have been of a new mo­bile, two-stage liq­uid-fu­elled mis­sile North Korea dis­played in a huge April 15 mil­i­tary parade.

Ja­panese Prime Min­is­ter Shinzo Abe told re­porters that the launch was “ab­so­lutely un­ac­cept­able” and that Ja­pan would re­spond res­o­lutely.

Ja­panese For­eign Min­is­ter Fu­mio Kishida said he and his South Korean coun­ter­part agreed that “di­a­logue for di­a­logue’s sake with North Korea is mean­ing­less.’’

The White House took note of the mis­sile land­ing close to Rus­sia’s Pa­cific coast and said in a state­ment that North Korea has been “a fla­grant men­ace for far too long.”

The state­ment said Wash­ing­ton main­tains its “iron­clad com­mit­ment” to stand with its al­lies in the face of the se­ri­ous threat posed by North Korea. The lat­est “provo­ca­tion” should serve as a call for all na­tions to im­ple­ment far stronger sanc­tions against the North, it said.

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