The North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, has issued a fresh challenge to Donald Trump by conducting a second ballistic missile test-launch which experts said placed US cities in range of potential attack.
The missile launch was meant as a stern warning for the US, North Korea’s state news agency said. The ICBM, which aimed for maximum distance, flew for 47 minutes and 12 seconds while travelling 998km (620 miles) and reaching a maximum altitude of 3,724.9 meters (12,220ft), the North said.
The test was ordered by the North’s leader, Kim Jong-un, who was cited as saying that the launch reaffirmed the reliability of the country’s ICBM system and an ability to fire at random regions and locations at random times with the entire US mainland now within range.
Kim said the launch sent a serious warning to the US, which has been “meaninglessly blowing its trumpet” with threats of war and stronger sanctions, the news agency said.
The launch on Friday from Chagang province came less than a month after Pyongyang claimed to have tested its first ICBM.
“We assess that this missile was an intercontinental ballistic missile, as had been expected,” Pentagon spokesman Jeff Davis said in a statement.
“The missile was launched from Mupyong-ni and traveled about 1,000km before splashing down in the Sea of Japan. We are working with our interagency partners on a more detailed assessment,” he said.
Melissa Hanham, an expert in North Korea’s missile program from the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies, said the test showed that “Alaska was in range” and a 45-minute test flight suggested it could reach New York City.
In a telephone conversation after the test, the heads of the US and South Korean militaries discussed “military response options”, the Pentagon said.
Japan led the international condemnation of North Korea’s latest launch, which appeared to have been timed to mark commemorations of the end of Korean war in 1953.
“This clearly shows the threat to our nation’s safety is severe and real,” said Japan’s prime minister, Shinzo Abe, vowing to do “our utmost to protect the safety of the Japanese people”.
South Korea’s president, Moon Jae-in, chaired an national security council meeting in the early hours of Saturday. The defence minister, Song Young-moo, later said Seoul would prepare independent measures to curb the North’s nuclear threat.
“Along with joint efforts to deter proliferation we will prepare independent measures to curb it as soon as possible,” Song told a press conference in Seoul.
Earlier this month, Moscow blocked a UN security council statement condemning North Korea’s last missile launch because it said that rocket was also medium-range, despite assertions by the US and Pyongyang.
Analysts remain skeptical as to whether North Korea has the ability to miniaturise a nuclear weapon that could be fired on such a missile. Even so, the launch is the latest reminder of Trump’s failure to advance in his bid to rein in Kim’s nuclear ambitions.
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