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N. Korea says successfully tested new ballistic missile

By AFP 13 February 2017

North Korea said Monday it had successfully tested a new ballistic missile, triggering a US-led call for an urgent UN Security Council meeting after a launch seen as a challenge to President Donald Trump.

The North’s leader Kim Jong-Un “expressed great satisfaction over the possession of another powerful nuclear attack means which adds to the tremendous might of the country”, state news agency KCNA said. 

The missile was launched Sunday near the western city of Kusong and flew east about 500 kilometres (310 miles) before falling into the Sea of Japan (East Sea), South Korea’s defence ministry has said.

Photos released by KCNA showed the missile blasting into the sky with a smiling Kim watching from the launch site’s command centre, surrounded by dozens of cheering soldiers and scientists. 

It said Kim “personally guided” preparations for Sunday’s test, which it described as a surface-to-surface medium long-range Pukguksong-2, a “Korean-style new type strategic weapon system”.

KCNA said the missile was powered by a solid-fuel engine — which requires a far shorter refuelling time than conventional liquid fuel-powered missiles, according to Yun Duk-Min of the state-run Institute for Foreign Affairs and Security in Seoul.  

“They leave little warning time and therefore pose greater threat to opponents,” he said, adding that such missiles are harder to detect before launch by satellite surveillance.

The announcement was the first time a Pukguksong-2 has been mentioned, although the North last August test-fired what it said was a submarine-launched missile marked as a Pukguksong-1, a name which translates as the “North Star”.

Kim said at the time that the missile, which was launched towards Japan, put the US mainland and the Pacific within striking range. 

But the North has previously made claims for its weapons capabilities that analysts consider unconvincing.

– Armed provocation -The South has said that the latest launch, the first such test since last October, was designed as a test for Trump, who responded to the provocation by pledging “100 percent” support for Washington’s key regional ally Japan. 

“Today’s missile launch… is aimed at drawing global attention to the North by boasting its nuclear and missile capabilities”, Seoul’s defence ministry said Sunday.

“It is also believed that it was an armed provocation to test the response from the new US administration under President Trump,” it added.

The United States, Japan and South Korea responded to the North’s confirmation by requesting an urgent UN Security Council meeting to discuss the launch.

The council is expected to hold consultations on Monday.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, whose country would be in range of a hostile North Korean missile launch, called the test “absolutely intolerable” during an impromptu press conference with Trump in Florida on Sunday. 

North Korea is barred under UN resolutions from any use of ballistic missile technology. But six sets of UN sanctions since Pyongyang’s first nuclear test in 2006 have failed to halt its drive for what it insists are defensive weapons.

Last year the country conducted two nuclear tests and numerous missile launches in its quest to develop a nuclear weapons system capable of hitting the US mainland.

South Korea’s acting president Hwang Gyo-Ahn vowed a “corresponding punishment” in response to the launch, which came on the heels of a visit to Seoul by US Defense Secretary James Mattis this month.

Mattis had warned Pyongyang that any nuclear attack would be met with an “effective and overwhelming” response. DM

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