Tue, May 16, 2017 - Page 5 News List

N Korea moving toward developing ICBM: experts

‘NEVER BEFORE SEEN’:The missile launched on Sunday would have had a range of 4,000km if it were fired on a standard trajectory, Washington-based 38 North said

Reuters, SEOUL

A Hwasong-12 long-range missile is launched during a test in an undated photograph yesterday released by the Korean Central News Agency.

Photo: Reuters

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 US.

Pyongyang yesterday boasted that the launch the previous day, supervised by North Korean 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 official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported.

However, the US military’s Pacific Command on Sunday said the type of missile that was fired was “not consistent” with an ICBM and South Korea’s military played down the North’s claim of technical progress on atmospheric re-entry.

“We believe the possibility of that is low,” South Korean Office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff spokesman Roh Jae-cheon said.

The missile landed in the sea near Russia in a launch that Washington called a message to Seoul days after newly elected South Korean President Moon Jae-in took office, pledging to engage Pyongyang in dialogue.

Moon yesterday responded by sending special envoys to the US, China, Germany, Japan and Russia to explain his government’s plans and policy toward North Korea.

Pyongyang has been working to develop a nuclear-tipped missile capable of reaching the US, a flight of about 8,000km.

US President Donald Trump last month said major conflict with North Korea was possible, but he would prefer a diplomatic outcome.

He has also vowed to prevent the North from being able to hit the US with a nuclear missile, a capability experts say Pyongyang could have some time after 2020.

The latest missile launch suggested North Korea 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 neighboring 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 intermediate-range missile test-fired from the same area in North Korea’s northwest in February.

North Korea is banned under UN 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 to meet today to discuss the 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 intermediate-range 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 intercontinental ballistic missile,” it said.

KCNA also claimed that the test launch verified “guidance and stabilization systems” and the reliability of a new engine, as well as the warhead homing feature that allowed it to survive “under the worst re-entry situation” and detonate accurately.

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