North Korea has been emboldened by its first successful launch of a new type of “medium long-range” ballistic rocket that is capable of carrying a heavy nuclear warhead.
Despite condemnation from Seoul, Tokyo and Washington, communist dictator Kim Jong Un gloated about his latest success and vowed to continue on his dangerous course, threatening to strike the U.S. mainland and Pacific holdings.
Pyongyang has been threatening to turn Seoul into a “sea of fire” for years, but this latest test suggests that the North’s goal of developing a nuclear-tipped missile capable of reaching the U.S. mainland could now be in sight.
The test was seen as a direct challenge to South Korea’s new liberal president, Moon Jae-in. Elected just last week, the new leader has said that he wants to reach out to North Korea.
According to North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency, the missile was identified as a “new ground-to-ground medium long-range strategic ballistic rocket.” Known as the “Hwasong-12,” it is reportedly “capable of carrying a large, heavy nuclear warhead.”
Kim was said to be so pleased with the test that he “hugged officials in the field of rocket research, saying that they worked hard to achieve a great thing,” according to KCNA.
The rocket reportedly flew 787 kilometers (490 miles) and reached a maximum altitude of 2,111 kilometers (1,310 miles), according to propaganda from the North, and “verified the homing feature of the warhead under the worst re-entry situation and accurate performance of detonation system.”
South Korea’s Defense Ministry spokesman Moon Sang Gyun said it’s still unlikely that North Korea has re-entry technology, but Japanese officials said reported that the missile “flew for half an hour and reached an unusually high altitude before landing in the Sea of Japan.”
Each new nuclear and longer-range missile test is another step in the North’s attempt to build a nuclear-tipped intercontinental ballistic missile.
In fighting what he terms “nuclear blackmail,” Kim was quoted by state media saying, “The most perfect weapon systems in the world will never become the eternal exclusive property of the U.S.,” warning that “the U.S. should not … disregard or misjudge the reality that its mainland and Pacific operation region are in (North Korea’s) sighting range for strike.”
The launch throws a monkey wrench into the new South Korean president’s plan to reach out to the North.
“The president expressed deep regret over the fact that this reckless provocation … occurred just days after a new government was launched in South Korea,” said senior presidential secretary Yoon Young-chan. “The president said we are leaving open the possibility of dialogue with North Korea, but we should sternly deal with a provocation to prevent North Korea from miscalculating.”
The U.N. Security Council will hold a meeting regarding the launch on Tuesday afternoon, U.S. ambassador to the U.N., Nikki Haley, told reporters that China may cooperate in bringing new sanctions against North Korea.
The U.S. Pacific Command said the North’s test flight on Sunday “is not consistent with an intercontinental ballistic missile.”
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