NK missile no better than before: analysts China
North Korea fired a ballistic missile over Japan’s northern Hokkaido Island Tuesday morning, prompting Tokyo to warn its citizens to take cover.
Experts said the latest launch provides no indication that North Korean missile technology has improved to accurately strike Guam, but Pyongyang may wish to force the US into negotiations favorable toward North Korea by threatening the security of Japan.
Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying urged relevant parties at a press conference to refrain from provoking each other to prevent regional tensions from further escalating.
US President Donald Trump warned North Korea that “all options are on the table,” and that threatening and destabilizing actions only increase the North Korea’s isolation in the region and among all nations
of the world, Trump said in a statement released by the White House.
The missile could have been the intermediaterange Hwasong- 12 missile or Pukguksong- 2. If it was the latter, Pyongyang could have been conducting a full- range test, Song Zhongping, a military expert who served in the Rocket Force, told the Global Times on Tuesday.
The missile was fired at around 5: 58 am from the western coast of North Korea in a northeastern direction, and passed over Cape Erimo on Japan’s northernmost main island of Hokkaido around 6: 06 am, Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said.
The missile flew over 2,700 kilometers, reaching a height of 550 kilometers, and fell into the Pacific Ocean some 1,180 kilometers east of Cape Erimo around 6: 12 am. The launch marks the first flight of a North Korean ballistic missile over Japan, and is considered by Western media as one of the most provocative ballistic missile tests Pyongyang has ever conducted.
In 2009, North Korea fired a rocket carrying a communications satellite into orbit over Japan.
Japanese television and radio broadcasters on Tuesday broke into their regular programming with a “J- Alert,” warning citizens of the missile launch. Bullet train services were temporarily halted and warnings went out over loudspeakers in towns in Hokkaido.
“North Korea’s reckless action is an unprecedented, serious and grave threat to our nation,” Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told reporters on Tuesday.
Abe said he spoke to Trump and they agreed to increase pressure on North Korea. Trump also said the US was “100 percent with Japan,” Abe told reporters, according to a Reuters report.
Song, a ballistic missile expert, brushed off speculation that Tuesday’s launch could have been a warm- up for a similar action toward Guam, adding that Pyongyang needs more tests for its missiles to function reliably.
“This ballistic missile launch was a normal weapons trajectory test. For these kinds of tests, missiles need to reach their full range to see how different parts react in trajectory and whether they can function properly under a system command,” Song said.
Gaining the upper hand
“We will respond strongly based on our steadfast alliance with the US if North Korea continues nuclear and missile provocations,” the South Korean foreign ministry said in a statement.
Four South Korean fighter jets bombed a military firing range on Tuesday after President Moon Jae- in asked the military to demonstrate their capabilities to counter North Korea.
South Korea and the US had discussed deploying additional “strategic assets” on the Korean Peninsula, the presidential Blue House said in a statement, without providing further details, Reuters said.
Da Zhigang, director of the Heilongjiang Provincial Academy of Social Sciences’ Institute of Northeast Asian Studies, said Pyongyang may wish to use the launch to provoke key allies of the US and force Washington into negotiations.
“Under tremendous US pressure, North Korea has launched multiple missiles but failed to receive a desirable response from the US. The ballistic missile’s flight over Hokkaido could be a strategy to ‘ kidnap’ Japan and South Korea, the two key US allies, to threaten the US and force it into submission on certain terms,” Da said.
Pedestrians walk in front of a huge screen displaying a map of Japan ( center) and the Korean Peninsula, in Tokyo on Tuesday, following a North Korean missile that flew over Japan.