San Francisco Chronicle

North Korea: Latest intermedia­te-range missile test shows progress, analysts say.


SEOUL— North Korea launched an intermedia­te-range ballistic missile into high altitude Wednesday, demonstrat­ing that the country was making progress after five consecutiv­e failures in just over two months, South Korean analysts said.

The projectile, a Musudan missile, took off from Wonsan, a port city east of Pyongyang, the North Korean capital, and flew about 250 miles over the sea between North Korea and Japan, South Korea’s Office of Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement.

Although the missile fell far short of its estimated full range of more than 2,000 miles — far enough to reach U.S. military bases in the Pacific — the test is the first for the Musudan that was not immediatel­y dismissed as a failure by the United States or South Korea.

South Korea said that in the North’s previous five Musudan tests, including one earlier Wednesday, the projectile­s had all crashed into the sea or exploded in midair soon after liftoff.

The progress the North demonstrat­ed with its sixth test was disconcert­ing enough for South Korea to convene a meeting of top securityre­lated ministers later Wednesday to discuss the growing missile and nuclear threats.

Jeong Joon-hee, a spokesman for the South Korean government, called the launch a “clear provocatio­n” that violated U.N. Security Council resolution­s banning the North from developing ballistic missile technology.

In Washington, John Kirby, a State Department spokesman, said that the United States strongly condemned the tests and intended to discuss the North’s prohibited activities at the Security Council.

The Japanese Defense Ministry said it believed that the test showed that the North’s missile technology was advancing. The second of the two missiles fired Wednesday had reached an altitude of 620 miles, it said, “indicating a degree of capability as a mid-range ballistic missile.”

South Korean analysts said that North Korea appeared to have launched the second missile at a sharper angle to achieve a higher altitude and prevent it from flying over Japan. They said such an altitude was required to test a technology that protects a nuclear warhead from the extreme heat and friction that it would encounter upon crashing through the earth’s atmosphere.

Analysts say the North has been struggling to master the warhead re-entry technology needed to build longerrang­e projectile­s known as interconti­nental ballistic missiles.

The altitude reached Wednesday was the highest achieved by any North Korean missile and close to heights reached by interconti­nental ballistic missiles, analysts said.

 ?? Ed Jones / AFP / Getty Images ?? A television screen shows news coverage of a North Korean rocket launch at the Seoul railway station.
Ed Jones / AFP / Getty Images A television screen shows news coverage of a North Korean rocket launch at the Seoul railway station.

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