North Korea has successfully launched a new type of intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), the “Hwasong-15”, that can reach all of the United States, the rogue nation’s state media says.
The missile is the North’s most powerful ever, and it flew 950 kilometres for 53 minutes while reaching an altitude of 4475 kilometres, according to a statement read by a television presenter.
The intercontinental ballistic missile was launched in the early hours of Wednesday, apparently from a mobile launcher near Pyongyang, in the first test from North Korea since it fired a missile over Japan in mid-September.
Reaching an altitude of 4475 kilometres and flying for 50 minutes, the missile splashed down almost 1000 kilometres away in the sea west of Japan. By comparison, a missile fired on August 29 by North Korea that flew over Japan was airborne for just 14 minutes.
“It went higher, frankly, than any previous shots they have taken,” US Defence Secretary James Mattis said this morning.
“The bottom line it’s a continued effort to build a ballistic missile threat that endangers world peace.”
The Pentagon claimed the missile did not pose a threat to the US, its territories or allies. But based on a range of 13,000 kilometres achieved in today’s test, North Korea could now reach all of the United States and Australia.
Trump issues stern warning to Kim
US President Donald Trump was briefed while the missile was still in the air, and later told reporters the US would “take care of it”.
“It is a situation that we will handle,” he said.
Japan strongly protested the missile test and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe had ordered an emergency meeting of cabinet ministers, Chief Cabinet secretary Yoshihide Suga said.
South Korea staged a show of military force in response to the test, launching a live-fire “precision” missile exercise.
Foreign Minister Julie Bishop renewed Australia’s call for North Korea to abandon its weapons program.
“The Australian government condemns in the strongest possible terms North Korea’s continued violation of United Nations Security Council resolutions,” Mr Bishop told reporters in Canberra.
The regime should focus on the plight of the long-suffering North Korean people, she said.
The North Korea launch comes amid reports that Pyongyang will be capable of launching a long-range nuclear attack by 2018.
A senior South Korean minister on Tuesday said the North will soon be able to pair a nuclear warhead with a long-range ballistic missile.
Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon said Tuesday it is believed North Korean leader Kim Jong-un will push to achieve the daunting missile breakthrough in time for next September’s 70th anniversary of the founding of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
“They have been developing their nuclear capabilities faster than expected,” Mr Cho said.
“We cannot rule out the possibility of North Korea declaring the completion of their nuclear program next year.”
US government experts on Tuesday said they believed North Korea could conduct a new missile test within days.
A Japanese government source said earlier on Tuesday that Japan had detected radio signals suggesting North Korea may be preparing another ballistic missile launch, although such signals were not unusual and satellite images did not show fresh activity.
South Korea’s Yonhap news agency cited a South Korean government source as saying South Korea and Japan had been on higher alert after detecting signs of a possible missile launch.
Mr Trump last week designated North Korea a state sponsor of terrorism as part of the United States’ “maximum pressure campaign” against Pyongyang’s nuclear program.
The designation preceded fresh US sanctions sanctions and penalties against North Korea.
The designation came a week after Mr Trump returned from a 12-day, five-nation trip to Asia in which he made containing North Korea’s nuclear ambitions a centrepiece of his discussions with world leaders.