28/11/17

North Korea fires missile over Japan – possibly its most powerful yet

Pyongyang has conducted its first ballistic test launch in two-months, reigniting tensions in the region

 
The North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un. Photograph: UPI / Barcroft Images

Julian Borger in Washington and Justin McCurry in Tokyo
Tuesday 28 November 2017 18.46 GMTLast modified on Tuesday 28 November 2017 21.19 GMT

North Korea has conducted a night test of a long-range ballistic missile which landed off the coast of Japan, triggering a South Korea test-launch in response and bringing a return to high tension to the region after a lull of more than two months.
The Pentagon issued a statement saying that the weapon tested was an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM). Initial reports from Seoul suggested that it came from a mobile launcher, and was fired at about 3am local time.
The missile was reported to have flown for 50 minutes, on a very high trajectory reaching 4,500 km above the earth (more than ten times higher than the orbit of Nasa’s International Space Station) before coming down nearly 1,000 km from the launch site off the west coast of Japan.

This would make it the most powerful of the three ICBM’s North Korea  has tested so far. Furthermore, the mobile night launch appeared aimed at testing new capabilities and demonstrating that Pyongyang would be able to strike back to any attempt at a preventative strike against the regime.

What missiles does North Korea have?

“The missile was launched from Sain Ni, North Korea, and traveled about 1,000 km before splashing down in the Sea of Japan, within Japan’s economic exclusion zone. We are working with our interagency partners on a more detailed assessment of the launch,” Pentagon spokesman, Col Robert Manning said.

Within minutes of the launch, the South Korean joint chiefs of staff announced Seoul had carried out an exercise involving the launch of a “precision strike” missile, signalling that it was primed to respond immediately to any attack from the North.

“The North American Aerospace Defense Command (Norad) determined the missile launch from North Korea did not pose a threat to North America, our territories or our allies. Our commitment to the defence of our allies, including the Republic of Korea and Japan, in the face of these threats, remains ironclad,” Manning said. “We remain prepared to defend ourselves and our allies from any attack or provocation.”

It was the first North Korean ballistic missile test since 15 September, and follows a warning earlier this month from Donald Trump that North Korean threats to strike the US and its allies would be a “fatal miscalculation”.

North Korea: ballistic missile launched over Japan – as it happened
US and South Korea say intermediate-range ballistic missile was fired east from Pyongyang. Follow the latest developments

“This a very different administration than the United States has had in the past. Do not underestimate us. And do not try us,” said Trump, in a speech to the South Korean national assembly.

The launch also marked a rebuff to Russia which had claimed the previous day that the pause in missile launches suggested that Pyongyang was ready to defuse tensions in line with a proposal from Moscow and Beijing that North Korea could freeze missile and nuclear tests in exchange for a scaling down of US and allied military exercises.

“I think North Korea’s restraint for the past two months is within the simultaneous freeze road map,” said Igor Morgulov, the deputy Russian foreign minister, speaking to reporters in Seoul on Monday.

Mira Rapp-Hooper, an expert on Asia-Pacific security at Yale Law School and the Centre for a New American Security said that the night launch “matters because that’s when they’d launch under operational conditions.

“The mobile launcher matters because it means their missile capability is increasingly survivable – we can’t threaten to take out a missile on a launch pad if there is no launch pad and we don’t know where it’s coming from.”

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