North Korea conducts missile test
Analysts say Alaska in reach of weapon
SEOUL, South Korea — President Donald Trump’s administration on Tuesday confirmed North Korea’s claim that it had launched an intercontinental ballistic missile, and it told Pyongyang that the United States would use “the full range of capabilities at our disposal against the growing threat.”
The administration followed up that warning this morning with a joint military exercise in which U.S. and South Korean forces fired ballistic missiles in the waters along the peninsula’s east coast.
But North Korea reaffirmed today that it would never deviate from its determination to bolster its nuclear and missile capabilities as long as the United States’ “hostile policy” and “nuclear threat” persisted.
The announcement about the missile’s range came hours after a launch that the U.S. military said had sent the missile aloft for 37 minutes. That duration, analysts said, suggested a significant improvement in the range of the North’s missiles, and it might allow one to travel as far as 4,000 miles and hit Alaska.
North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong Un, said the North’s missile launch earlier in the day was a milestone in its efforts to build nuclear weapons capable of hitting the U.S. mainland. The Korean Central News Agency said the country’s citizens were
happy with the “great timing” of their leader’s decision to “hit the arrogant Americans in the nose” by conducting the first ICBM test on the eve of their Independence Day.
“I guess they are not too happy with the gift package we sent them for the occasion of their Independence Day,” the news agency quoted Kim as saying after watching the missile test Tuesday. “We should often send them gift packages so they won’t be too bored.”
In a show of force directly responding to North Korea’s provocation, U.S. and South Korean soldiers fired “deep strike” precision missiles into South Korean territorial waters on Tuesday, U.S. military officials in Seoul said. The missile firings demonstrated U.S.-South Korean solidarity, the U.S. 8th Army said in a statement.
The joint missile exercise by the U.S. and South Korea was first proposed by South Korean President Moon Jaein and endorsed by Trump, Moon’s office said.
At the request of the U.S., Japan and South Korea, the United Nations Security Council was to hold an emergency session this afternoon. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said that was part of a U.S. response that would include “stronger measures to hold the DPRK accountable,” using the initials for the isolated nation’s formal name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
Under a series of U.N. Security Council resolutions, North Korea is prohibited from developing or testing ballistic missiles.
He said the U.S. “will never accept a nuclear-armed North Korea.”
The test comes just before Trump will see key Asian leaders and Russian President Vladimir Putin later this week. North Korea was already expected to be a main subject for meetings on the sidelines of the Group of 20 economic summit, but the test adds urgency to a widening U.S. campaign aimed at further isolating North Korea.
The prime danger from the U.S. viewpoint is the prospect of North Korea pairing a nuclear warhead with an intercontinental ballistic missile. The latest U.S. intelligence assessment is that the North probably does not yet have that capability — putting a small-enough nuclear warhead atop an intercontinental ballistic missile.
Still, U.S. policymakers have long seen just the development of an intercontinental ballistic missile as a critical threshold the North should not be allowed to cross.
580 MILES IN 40 MINUTES
The missile departed the Banghyon airfield in the northwestern town of Kusong and flew 578 miles before landing in the sea between North Korea and Japan, the South Korean military said in a statement.
The Japanese government said the missile landed in its so-called exclusive economic zone off its western coast.
Most outside and North Korean analyses of the missile’s height, distance and time in the air were roughly similar.
U.S., South Korean and Japanese officials say it flew for about 40 minutes and reached an altitude of 1,500 miles, which would be longer and higher than any similar North Korean test previously reported. It also covered a distance of about 580 miles.
North Korea said the missile flew as high as 1,741 miles before hitting a designated target in the ocean about 580 miles away from the launch site in the North’s northwest. It said the missile flew for about 39 minutes and was made at the highest possible angle.
Russia’s military, however, said the missile flew considerably shorter and lower than others reported.
The launch comes after a string of recent actions by Pyongyang, including a salvo of missiles last month and three tests in May. Kim has now launched more missiles in one year than his father and predecessor in the family dynasty did in 17 years in power.
North Korea has also conducted five nuclear weapons tests since 2006, including two last year.
The missile test adds a volatile new element to the Trump administration’s efforts to curb North Korea’s nuclear ambitions, which have included naval drills off the Korean Peninsula and pressure on China, Pyongyang’s longtime ally. In a blunt phone call Sunday, Trump warned President Xi Jinping of China that the United States was prepared to act alone against North Korea.
Before the announcement by North Korea, Trump had noted the missile launch on Twitter, suggesting that it was time for China to act decisively against the North and “end this nonsense once and for all.”
On Tuesday, Chinese officials criticized the missile test, saying it violated U.N. rules.
But at the same time, the Chinese government offered no signs that it was preparing to take more drastic action against the North, urging a return to diplomatic talks instead.
CHINA AND RUSSIA
Later in Moscow, where Xi was visiting, Putin said both had agreed to advance a joint proposal to settle the Korea crisis by simultaneously freezing the North’s nuclear and missile programs and the joint military drills by the U.S. and South Korea.
North Korea views the exercises as preparation for an invasion and has repeatedly demanded their cancellation. It says it needs nuclear weapons and powerful missiles to cope with what it calls rising U.S. military threats.
In remarks broadcast on Russian television, Putin called a solution proposed with China “a joint foreign-policy priority.”
Russia, which like China borders North Korea, has repeatedly called for a diplomatic solution. Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov warned that the launch would give “more arguments to those who seek pretexts for new escalation of tensions,” according to the Interfax news agency.
The Chinese and Russian foreign ministries urged other nations to create a “peaceful atmosphere of mutual trust” to encourage talks between the two sides on commitments not to use force and to make the Korean Peninsula free of nuclear weapons.
Regional disarmament talks on North Korea’s nuclear program have been deadlocked since 2009, when the North pulled out of the negotiations to protest international condemnation over a long-range rocket launch.
In an apparent hint at the U.S., Beijing and Moscow spoke against the “non-regional powers’ military presence in Northeast Asia and its buildup under the pretext of countering North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs.”
They specifically opposed U.S. missile defense systems in the region, saying their deployment “seriously damages strategic security interests of regional powers, including Russia and China” and hinders peace and stability.
Xi’s visit to Russia came amid a flare-up of tensions between China and the U.S. over an American destroyer sailing within the territorial waters of a Chinese-claimed island in the South China Sea.
Before arriving in Moscow on Monday, Xi warned President Donald Trump that “some negative factors” were hurting U.S.-China relations.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe sharply criticized North Korea for the launch. “The latest launch clearly showed that the threat is growing,” Abe said.
In remarks to the news media, he vowed to work closely with the United States and South Korea, but called on China and Russia to do more.
“I’d like to strongly urge international society’s cooperation on the North Korea issue and urge China’s chairman, Xi Jinping, and Russia’s President Putin to take more constructive measures,” Abe said.
Abe, who talked by phone with Trump on Monday, said the two leaders plan to seek cooperation from world leaders when they attend the G-20 summit.
Information for this article was contributed by Choe Sang-Hun, Austin Ramzy, Jane Perlez, Motoko Rich, Javier C. Hernandez, Ivan Nechepurenko and Rick Gladstone of The New York
Times; by Hyung-Jin Kim, Foster Klug, Mari Yamaguchi, Catherine Lucey, Josh Lederman, Robert Burns and Vladimir Isachenkov of The Associated Press; and by Anne Gearan, Emily Rauhala, Joby Warrick, Shirley Feng and Yang Liu of The Washington Post.
People watch local television news Tuesday showing what was said to be the launch of a Hwasong-14 intercontinental ballistic missile, aired by North Korea’s KRT, at Seoul Train Station in Seoul, South Korea.