North Korea conducted a successful test of a new two-stage liquid fueled rocket on Sunday 14 May 2017. The missile was said to be capable of flying 4,000, and up to 4,500 kilometers. The North Korean state news agency KCNA said the test was to verify the capability to carry a "large scale heavy nuclear warhead," and the missile flew 787 kilometers, reaching an altitude of 2,111 kilometers. Preliminary assessment by US authorities indicated that North Korea launched a liquid-fuel single-stage KN-17 missile, NBC News reported citing two military officials. But this nomenclature was previously assocaited with a much smaller shorter range missile.
This was the seventh missile provocation by Pyongyang this year alone, and comes just two weeks after a missile test that South Korean and US officials said failed. South Korea's military confirmed that the North launched a ballistic missile Sunday morning, around 5:30 a.m. Seoul time, from an area near the city of Kusong, about 120 kilometers northwest of the regime's capital. According to the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the missile flew some 700 kilometers, and judging by the flight distance, military experts are looking at the launch as a successful one.
Some experts added to the doubts on the effectiveness and development of the Hwaseong-12, as they have pointed to video footage showing how the missile was launched from a stationary system instead of the preferred and more difficult to counter mobile system.
Japanese government officials said that the North launched a ballistic missile into the Sea of Japan from near Kusong in the northwestern province of Pyongan-pukdo. They said it is the first time a North Korean missile has reached an altitude of over 2,000 kilometers. According to Japan, the missile reached an altitude of more than 2,000 kilometers in a matter of about 30 minutes before falling into the East Sea in Japan's Exclusive Economic Zone, suggesting it was launched at a steep, or "lofted," angle.
The altitude reached by the missile meant it was launched at a high trajectory, which would limit the lateral distance it travelled. But if it was fired at a standard trajectory, it could have easily reached a distance of 4,500 kilometers. Guam is 3,400 km from North Korea. The missile could not have reached Alaska, at about 5,700 kilometers, or Hawaii at about 7,000 kilometers. An ICBM has a minimum range of about 5,000 or 6,000 kilometers. The US military's Pacific Command said the type of missile that was fired was "not consistent with an intercontinental ballistic missile."
"North Korea's latest successful missile test 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 (IRBM) 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 (ICBM)," it said.
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un was said to have been at the launch site to oversee the test. He was cited as saying that nuclear weapons capabilities shall not be monopolized by the US and he is sure the day will come for his regime to be able to take corresponding retaliatory measures against the US. The young North Korean leader said the US' mainland and its Pacific theater of command is within its striking range.
Monday's edition of the North's communist party Rodong Sinmun newspaper carried 36 photos of a missile climbing upward and Kim watching the launch. The state-run media outlets quoted Kim Jong Un as saying that the US mainland and Pacific operation region are now within North Korea's striking range.
"The test-fire aimed at verifying the tactical and technological specifications of the newly-developed ballistic rocket capable of carrying a large-size heavy nuclear warhead," the North's official KCNA news agency said. "If the US awkwardly attempts to provoke the DPRK, it will not escape from the biggest disaster in history," KCNA quoted Kim as saying. The DPRK leader 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 a strike," KCNA reported.
Just days after being elected, South Korean President Moon Jae-in faced his first North Korean provocation, putting an early test to his stated policy to pursue peaceful dialogue with his defiant nuclear neighbor. The South Korean leader expressed solidarity with the United States and Japan. Within an hour from North Korea's missile test, South Korea's new President Moon Jae-in ordered an urgent meeting of top security officials condemning the move and calling it "deeply regrettable" as the provocation came only days after Moon took office calling for dialogue with the North.
The President said the missile launch was a clear violation of the UN Security Council's resolutions and a grave threat to the peace and safety of the international community, let alone the Korean peninsula. President Moon reconfirmed that the new administration has its door open for dialogue with North Korea, but dialogue is possible only when the North changes its attitude. South Korea's commander-in-chief said Seoul must act decisively against Pyongyang's provocations so that it will not miscalculate and make a wrong move calling on his military to be fully prepared for any future provocation by North Korea.
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