International community urged to unite against latest North Korea missile test
Abe warns of dim future if provocations continue
US calls for direct action by Russia and China
Japan has warned North Korea it may “not have a bright future” after Pyongyang launched a ballistic missile over Japanese territory for the second time in just over a fortnight.
The projectile, thought to be an intermediate-range ballistic missile, flew further than any missile tested so far by the regime, triggering sirens and text alerts minutes before it passed over the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido yesterday.
The foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, said the launch must be met with a united international response. He condemned the test as illegal and the latest sign of provocation from Pyongyang.
The US secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, called for the international community to take “new measures” against North Korea, singling out Russia and China as being best placed to apply pressure on the regime, almost a week after it tested what is believed to be a hydrogen bomb. As major suppliers of oil to North Korea, Russia and China “must indicate their intolerance for these reckless missile launches by taking direct actions of their own”, Tillerson said.
The launch was a show of defiance days after the UN security council approved new sanctions against the regime.
Flight data shows the missile travelled higher and further than the Hwasong-12 intermediate-range missile fired over Japan on 29 August, suggesting the regime is continuing to make advances in its missile and nuclear weapons programmes.
The UN security council was due to meet again in New York last night to discuss the missile test.
Shinzo Abe, the Japanese prime minister, said the launch was “absolutely unacceptable”. He said the recent UN resolution banning North Korean textile exports and capping oil supplies to the country “showed the international community’s unified strong will for a peaceful solution. But despite that, North Korea has again carried out this outrageous conduct.
“Now is the time when the international community is required to unite against North Korea’s provocative acts, which threaten world peace,” Abe told reporters. “We must make North Korea understand that if it continues down this road, it will not have a bright future.”
South Korea’s president, Moon Jae-in, called an emergency meeting of his national security council, while the South demonstrated its own firepower by conducting a ballistic missile launch off the east coast of the Korean peninsula.
South Korea’s foreign ministry said the missile test was a “very serious and grave challenge” to global security and urged the North to abandon its quest to develop weapons of mass destruction.
“North Korea should clearly realise that its abandonment of nuclear and missile development is the only way to guarantee its security and economic development,” the ministry said, adding that Pyongyang should “stop reckless provocations immediately and come to the path of dialogue for denuclearisation as soon as possible”.
South Korea said Moon and Abe had agreed to cooperate in identifying “stern and effective measures” against North Korea, to be discussed at next week’s United Nations general assembly ministerial meetings.
The Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman, Hua Chunying, said Beijing objected to the launch but believed diplomacy was the only way to solve the “complicated, sensitive and grim” problem. “The top priority is now to prevent any provocative acts,” Hua said. But she rejected the theory – advanced by Donald Trump and Theresa May – that Beijing held the key to thwarting Kim Jong-un’s nuclear and missile ambitious. “China is not the focus. China is not the driving force behind the escalating situation. And China is not the key to resolving the issue.”
China had made “great sacrifices” and “paid a high price” in its bid to help rein in Pyongyang: “China’s willingness and its efforts to fulfil its relevant international responsibilities cannot be questioned.”
A spokesman for Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, criticised the launch and warned it would cause a spike in regional tensions.
South Korea’s joint chiefs of staff said the missile was fired from Sunan, the site of Pyongyang’s international airport. North Korea used the airport to fire the Hwasong-12 missile over northern Japan last month – an act it said was a “meaningful prelude” to containing the US Pacific island territory of Guam and more missile launches towards the Pacific.
The missile fired yesterday flew 2,300 miles and reached an altitude of 480 miles – suggesting North Korea is progressing towards its aim of building a missile capable of striking the US mainland. It landed 1,240 miles east of Hokkaido.