N. KOREA CLOSER TO HAVING MISSILE THAT CAN REACH U.S.
Jong-un warns US that its mainland is in North’s ‘sighting range for strike’
NORTH Korea’s apparently successful launch of a mid-to-long range missile indicated a significant advance in its drive for an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), monitors said yesterday, a worrying sign for the Korean peninsula and the United States.
The isolated North boasted yesterday that the launch the previous day, supervised by leader Kim Jong-un, was aimed at verifying the capability to carry a “large-scale heavy nuclear warhead”.
Kim accused the US of “browbeating” countries that “have no nukes” and warned Washington not to misjudge the reality that its mainland is in the North’s “sighting range for strike”, the North’s official KCNA news agency reported.
However, the US military’s Pacific Command said on Sunday the type of missile that was fired was “inconsistent” with an ICBM and South Korea’s military played down the North’s claim of technical progress on atmospheric reentry.
“We believe the possibility of that is low,” said South Korea’s Office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Roh Jae-cheon.
The missile landed in the sea near Russia on Sunday in a launch that Washington called a message to South Korea, days after its new president Moon Jae-in took office pledging to engage Pyongyang in dialogue.
Moon responded yesterday by sending special envoys to the US, China, Germany, Japan and Russia to explain his new government’s plans and policy towards the defiant North.
North Korea has been working to develop a nuclear-tipped missile capable of reaching the US, a flight of some 8,000km.
The latest missile launch suggested the North had taken a step in that direction, analysts said.
The new ballistic missile, named Hwasong-12, was fired at the highest possible angle to avoid affecting neighbouring countries’ security and flew 787km after reaching an altitude of 2,111km, KCNA said.
Those details were largely consistent with South Korean and Japanese assessments and indicated the missile flew higher and further than an intermediaterange missile test-fired from the same area in North Korea's northwest in February.
North Korea is banned under United Nations resolutions from engaging in nuclear and missile development, but has conducted its fifth nuclear test and a string of missile launches since the start of last year.
The UN Security Council is due to meet today to discuss the North’s latest missile launch, diplomats said, at the request of the US, South Korea and Japan.
Experts said Sunday’s launch would have had a range of at least 4,000km if fired at a standard trajectory.
That “represents a level of performance never before seen from a North Korean missile”, Washington-based monitoring project 38 North said in an analysis.
“It appears to have not only demonstrated an intermediaterange ballistic missile that might enable them to reliably strike the US base at Guam, but more importantly, may represent a substantial advance to developing an ICBM,” it said.
KCNA also claimed that the test launch verified “guidance and stabilisation systems” and the reliability of a new engine, as well as the warhead homing feature that allowed it to survive “under the worst reentry situation” and detonate accurately.
Kim Dong-yub, a professor at Kyungnam University’s Institute of Far Eastern Studies here, said that, if true, that would mark a quicker-than-expected advancement in the North’s ICBM programme.
He said the missile’s trajectory indicated the North was clearly testing the reentry technology under flight environments that would be consistent for an ICBM.
The North has successfully launched long-range rockets twice to put objects into space, although many experts believed it was some years away from mastering the reentry technology needed to perfect an ICBM. Reuters
The Hwasong-12 missile being launched from an undisclosed location in North Korea.