By Sebastien BERGER
Seoul (AFP) July 4, 2017
North Korea declared Tuesday it had successfully tested its first intercontinental ballistic missile -- a watershed moment in its push to develop a nuclear weapon capable of hitting the mainland United States.
US experts said the device could reach Alaska, and the launch, which came as Americans prepared to mark Independence Day, triggered a Twitter outburst from President Donald Trump who urged China to act to "end this nonsense once and for all".
The North's possession of a working ICBM -- something that Trump has vowed "won't happen" -- would force a fundamental recalculation of the strategic threat posed by the isolated, impoverished state.
The "landmark" test of a Hwasong-14 missile was overseen by leader Kim Jong-Un, an emotional female announcer said on state Korean Central Television.
The broadcaster showed his handwritten order to carry out the launch, and pictures of him grinning in celebration, clenching his fist.
The rocket was "a very powerful ICBM that can strike any place in the world", the announcer said, and "a major breakthrough in the history of our republic".
In a statement the North's Academy of Defence Science, which developed the missile, said it reached an altitude of 2,802 kilometres and flew 933 kilometres, calling it the "final gate to rounding off the state nuclear force".
There are still doubts whether the North can miniaturise a nuclear weapon sufficiently to fit it onto a missile nose cone, or if it has mastered the technology needed for it to survive the difficult re-entry into the Earth's atmosphere.
But the country has made great progress in its missile capabilities since the ascension to power of Kim, who has overseen three nuclear tests and multiple rocket launches.
In response to the launch but before the announcement, Trump asked on Twitter: "Does this guy have anything better to do with his life?"
The United Nations has imposed multiple sets of sanctions on Pyongyang, which retorts that it needs nuclear arms to defend itself against the threat of invasion.
- 'All of Alaska' -
US Pacific Command confirmed the test and said it was a land-based, intermediate range missile that flew for 37 minutes before splashing down in the Sea of Japan, adding the launch did not pose a threat to North America.
Moscow's defence ministry called it medium-range in a statement to Russian news agencies.
But Tokyo -- in whose exclusive economic zone it came down -- estimated its maximum altitude to have "greatly exceeded" 2,500 kilometres, prompting arms control specialist Jeffrey Lewis to respond on Twitter: "That's it. It's an ICBM. An ICBM that can hit Anchorage not San Francisco, but still."
David Wright, of the Union of Concerned Scientists, wrote on the organisation's allthingsnuclear blog that the available figures implied the missile had "a maximum range of roughly 6,700 km on a standard trajectory".
"That range would not be enough to reach the lower 48 states or the large islands of Hawaii, but would allow it to reach all of Alaska."
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told reporters: "This launch clearly shows that the threat has grown."
The US, Japan and South Korea will hold a summit on the issue on the sidelines of this week's G20 meeting, he added. "Also I will encourage President Xi Jinping and President Putin to take more constructive measures."
South Korea's President Moon Jae-In, who backs both engagement with the North to bring it to the negotiating table and sanctions, and met Trump for a summit in Washington at the weekend, warned the North against crossing a "red line".
"I hope North Korea will not cross the bridge of no return," he said.
- 'Not wise' -
Washington, South Korea's security guarantor, has more than 28,000 troops in the country to defend it from its communist neighbour. Fears of conflict reached a peak earlier this year as the Trump administration suggested military action was an option under consideration.
There has also been anger in the United States over the death of Otto Warmbier, an American student detained in North Korea for around 18 months before he was returned home in a coma in June.
Trump has been pinning his hopes on China -- North Korea's main diplomatic ally -- to bring pressure to bear on Pyongyang.
Last week he declared that Beijing's efforts had failed, but returned to the idea on Twitter following the launch: "Perhaps China will put a heavy move on North Korea and end this nonsense once and for all!"
Beijing called for "restraint", and hit back at Trump, saying it had made "relentless efforts" on North Korea.
Seoul (AFP) July 4, 2017
North Korea launched what appeared to be its longest-range ballistic missile yet on Tuesday, with experts suggesting it could reach Alaska, triggering a Twitter outburst from US President Donald Trump who urged China to "end this nonsense once and for all". If the test - which came as the United States prepared to mark its independence day on the Fourth of July - represents an intercontine ... read more
Learn about nuclear weapons doctrine and defense at SpaceWar.com
Learn about missile defense at SpaceWar.com
All about missiles at SpaceWar.com
Learn about the Superpowers of the 21st Century at SpaceWar.com
|The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2017 - Space Media Network. All websites are published in Australia and are solely subject to Australian law and governed by Fair Use principals for news reporting and research purposes. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA news reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. All articles labeled "by Staff Writers" include reports supplied to Space Media Network by industry news wires, PR agencies, corporate press officers and the like. Such articles are individually curated and edited by Space Media Network staff on the basis of the report's information value to our industry and professional readership. Advertising does not imply endorsement, agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement|