NKorea fires mis­sile over Ja­pan in long­est-ever flight

Test sig­nals de­fi­ance, tech­no­log­i­cal ad­vance, trig­gers sirens but causes no dam­age

The Daily Star (Lebanon) - - WORLD -

SEOUL/TOKYO: North Korea con­ducted its long­est-ever test flight of a bal­lis­tic mis­sile Fri­day, send­ing an in­ter­me­di­ate-range weapon hurtling over U.S. ally Ja­pan into the north­ern Pa­cific Ocean in a launch that sig­nals both de­fi­ance of its ri­vals and a big tech­no­log­i­cal ad­vance.

The mis­sile flew over Hokkaido in the north and landed in the Pa­cific about 2,000 kilo­me­ters to the east, Ja­panese Chief Cab­i­net Sec­re­tary Yoshi­hide Suga told re­porters.

It trav­eled about 3,700 kilo­me­ters in to­tal, ac­cord­ing to South Korea’s mil­i­tary – far enough to reach the U.S. Pa­cific ter­ri­tory of Guam, which the North has threat­ened be­fore.

Since U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump threat­ened North Korea with “fire and fury” in Au­gust, the North has con­ducted its most pow­er­ful nu­clear test, threat­ened to send mis­siles into the wa­ters around the U.S. Pa­cific is­land ter­ri­tory of Guam and launched two mis­siles of in­creas­ing range over Ja­pan. July saw its first tests of in­ter­con­ti­nen­tal bal­lis­tic mis­siles that could strike deep into the U.S. main­land when per­fected.

Rus­sia said the mis­sile test was part of a se­ries of un­ac­cept­able provo­ca­tions and that the U.N. Se­cu­rity Coun­cil was united in be­liev­ing such launches should not oc­cur.

Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin dis­cussed the launch in a phone call with French Pres­i­dent Emmanuel Macron and agreed on the need for a diplo­matic so­lu­tion, in­clud­ing through re­sum­ing di­rect talks on North Korea, the Krem­lin said in a state­ment.

U.N. Sec­re­tary-Gen­eral An­to­nio Guter­res also con­demned the mis­sile launch as a se­ri­ous vi­o­la­tion of Se­cu­rity Coun­cil res­o­lu­tions com­ing less than two weeks after the North’s sixth nu­clear test, which also vi­o­lated a U.N. ban.

The Se­cu­rity Coun­cil Mon­day unan­i­mously ap­proved its tough­est sanc­tions yet on North Korea over its nu­clear test.

North Korea’s weapons tests demon­strate that it can “turn the Amer­i­can em­pire into a sea in flames through sud­den sur­prise at­tack from any re­gion and area,” North Korea’s Rodong Sin­mun news­pa­per said Fri­day, with­out men­tion­ing the lat­est mis­sile test.

South Korean Pres­i­dent Moon Jaein, a lib­eral who ini­tially pushed for talks with North Korea, said its tests now make di­a­logue “im­pos­si­ble.”

“The sanc­tions and pres­sure by the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity will only tighten so that North Korea has no choice but to take the path for gen­uine di­a­logue” for nu­clear dis­ar­ma­ment, Moon said. “If North Korea pro­vokes us or our al­lies, we have the strength to smash the at­tempt at an early stage and in­flict a level of dam­age it would be im­pos­si­ble to re­cover from.”

Fri­day’s test, which Seoul said was the 19th launch of a bal­lis­tic mis­sile by North Korea this year, trig­gered sirens and warn­ing mes­sages in north­ern Ja­pan but caused no ap­par­ent dam­age to air­craft or ships. It was the sec­ond mis­sile fired over Ja­pan in less than a month.

U.S. Sec­re­tary of De­fense Jim Mat­tis said the launch “put mil­lions of Ja­panese into duck and cover,” al­though peo­ple in north­ern Ja­pan seemed calm and went about busi­ness as nor­mal.

The mis­sile was launched from Su­nan, the lo­ca­tion of Py­ongyang’s in­ter­na­tional air­port and the ori­gin of the earlier mis­sile that flew over Ja­pan. An­a­lysts have spec­u­lated the new test was of the same in­ter­me­di­ate-range mis­sile launched in that earlier flight, the Hwa­song-12, and was meant to show Wash­ing­ton that North Korea can hit Guam if it chose to do so.

De­spite its im­pres­sive range, the mis­sile prob­a­bly still isn’t ac­cu­rate enough to de­stroy Guam’s An­der­sen Air Force Base, said David Wright, a U.S. mis­sile ex­pert with the Union of Con­cerned Sci­en­tists. Such early gen­er­a­tion mis­siles are of­ten in­ac­cu­rate be­cause of guid­ance and con­trol er­rors dur­ing the boost and re-en­try phases as the war­head passes through the at­mos­phere late in flight, Wright said. South Korea de­tected North Korean launch prepa­ra­tions Thurs­day, and Moon or­dered a live-fire bal­lis­tic mis­sile drill if the launch hap­pened. This al­lowed Seoul to fire its mis­siles only six min­utes after the North’s launch Fri­day. One of the two mis­siles hit a sea tar­get about 250 kilo­me­ters away, which was ap­prox­i­mately the dis­tance to Py­ongyang’s Su­nan, but the other failed in flight shortly after launch, South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said.

North Korea ini­tially flight-tested the Hwa­song-12 and the ICBM model Hwa­song-14 at highly lofted an­gles to re­duce their range and avoid neigh­bor­ing coun­tries.

The two launches over Ja­pan in­di­cate North Korea is mov­ing to­ward us­ing an­gles close to op­er­a­tional to de­ter­mine whether its war­heads can sur­vive the harsh con­di­tions of at­mo­spheric re-en­try and det­o­nate prop­erly.

The sanc­tions ap­proved earlier this week by the U.N. Se­cu­rity Coun­cil over North Korea’s Sept. 3 nu­clear test pro­hibit all tex­tile ex­ports and ban any coun­try from au­tho­riz­ing new work per­mits for North Korean work­ers – two key sources of hard cur­rency. They also pro­hibit North Korea from im­port­ing all nat­u­ral gas liq­uids and con­den­sates, and cap its im­ports of crude oil and re­fined petroleum prod­ucts.

North Korea’s For­eign Min­istry de­nounced the U.N. sanc­tions and said the North will “re­dou­ble its ef­forts to in­crease its strength to safe­guard the coun­try’s sovereignty and right to ex­is­tence.”

Seoul fired its mis­siles only six min­utes after the North’s launch

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