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’

New Straits Times - - World -

SEOUL

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

AP PIC

The Hwa­song-12 mis­sile be­ing launched from an undis­closed lo­ca­tion in North Korea.

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