North Korea's latest missile test may be a 'substantial advance'

Posted May 16, 2017

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un hailed the launch on Sunday as a test of the "perfect weapon system" and capable of carrying "a large-size heavy nuclear warhead".

Analysts said the most missile launch over the weekend constituted a significant technological jump, with the projectile apparently flying higher and for a longer time period than any previous missile. Tensions heightened in the Korean Peninsula in recent weeks amid speculation Pyongyang may conduct its sixth nuclear test sometime soon while the North's leader continued to threaten neighboring South and the US with its series of missile tests, some of which had recently failed.

Pyongyang's propaganda must be considered with caution, but if confirmed, the claim marks another big step forward in the country's escalating efforts to field a nuclear-tipped missile capable of reaching the United States mainland. Pyongyang's aggressive push to boost its weapons program also makes it one of the Trump administration's most urgent foreign policy worries, though Washington has struggled to settle on a policy.

Although outside experts see several places where North Korea is likely stretching the truth, the missile launched Sunday appears to be the most powerful the country has ever tested. And Japanese Defense Minister Tomomi Inada suggested that it might be a new type of missile altogether, noting that it reached an altitude of 2,000 km (1,240 miles) and remained in the air for 30 minutes.

Uruguay holds the council presidency this month and its U.N. Mission said Sunday the closed consultations will be held on Tuesday afternoon.

"I want to confirm that we are categorically against the expansion of the club of nuclear powers, including with the Korean peninsula and North Korea", said Putin, who said any such move would be "harmful and dangerous". Tokyo said the flight pattern could indicate a new type of missile.

North Korea launched a ballistic missile early Sunday from the northwestern part of the country.

A number of countries, including the United States, Japan and South Korea, criticized North Korea for conducting the latest missile launch.

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In a unanimously agreed statement, the 15-member council said it was of vital importance that North Korea show "sincere commitment to denuclearization through concrete action and stressed the importance of working to reduce tensions".

Beijing has cited United Nations resolutions for all of its measures against North Korea. It said that with this missile, "the USA mainland and Pacific operation region are in the [Democratic People's Republic of Korea's] sighting range for strike".

There's also a political victory for North Korea.

The North has made no secret of its quest to develop a missile capable of delivering a nuclear warhead to the continental United States - something President Donald Trump has vowed "won't happen".

North Korea's ambassador to China says that Pyongyang's test-firing of a ballistic missile over the weekend is part of the country's efforts to develop ways to defend itself against hostile aggression overseas.

Preliminary assessment by U.S. authorities indicates that North Korea launched a liquid-fuel single-stage KN-17 missile, NBC News reported citing two military officials.

"Let this latest provocation serve as a call for all nations to implement far stronger sanctions against North Korea", said the statement from White House press secretary Sean Spicer.

Russian President Vladimir Putin condemned the missile launch, telling reporters during a visit to China that "there's nothing good about" it.