By Park Chan-Kyong
Seoul (AFP) Sept 15, 2017
North Korea fired a ballistic missile over Japan and into the Pacific Friday, responding to new UN sanctions with what appeared to be its furthest-ever missile flight amid high tensions over its weapons programmes.
The launch, from near Pyongyang, came after the United Nations Security Council imposed an eighth set of measures on the isolated country following its sixth nuclear test earlier this month.
It was by far its largest to date and Pyongyang said it was a hydrogen bomb small enough to fit onto a missile.
In New York, the Security Council called an emergency meeting for later Friday.
The US Pacific Command confirmed Friday's rocket was an intermediate range ballistic missile (IRBM) and said it did not pose a threat to North America or to the US Pacific territory of Guam, which Pyongyang has threatened to bracket with "enveloping fire".
Seoul's defence ministry said it probably travelled around 3,700 kilometres and reached a maximum altitude of 770 kilometres.
It was "the furthest overground any of their ballistic missiles has ever travelled", Joseph Dempsey of the International Institute for Strategic Studies said on Twitter.
Physicist David Wright, of the Union of Concerned Scientists, added: "North Korea demonstrated that it could reach Guam with this missile, although the payload the missile was carrying is not known" and its accuracy was in doubt.
The North has raised global tensions with its rapid progress in weapons technology under leader Kim Jong-Un, who is closely associated with the programme and regularly pictured by state media overseeing launches and visiting facilities.
The North's last missile launch, a Hwasong-12 IRBM just over two weeks ago, also overflew Japan's main islands and was the first to do so for years.
But when Pyongyang tested two intercontinental ballistic missiles in July that appeared to bring much of the US mainland into range, it fired them on lofted trajectories that avoided passing over the archipelago nation.
"The North is sending a message which is, 'we are not cowering before any sanctions and our warnings are not empty threats'," Yang Moo-Jin of the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul told AFP.
"It has vowed the US would face 'pain and suffering' in retaliation for the UN sanctions."
- 'Missile launch!' -
Millions of Japanese were jolted awake by blaring sirens and emergency text message alerts after the missile was fired.
"Missile launch! missile launch! A missile appears to have been launched from North Korea," loudspeakers blared on Cape Erimo, on Hokkaido's southern tip.
Breakfast television programmes, which usually broadcast a light-hearted diet of children's shows and gadget features, instead flashed up the warning: "Flee into a building or a basement."
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Tokyo could "never tolerate" what he called a "dangerous provocative action that threatens world peace".
"If North Korea continues to walk down this path, it has no bright future," he told reporters. "We must make North Korea understand this."
Tokyo had protested to Pyongyang in the "strongest words possible", chief government spokesman Yoshihide Suga added.
The missile overflew the US ally for around two minutes, reports said, but there were no immediate indications of objects falling onto Japanese territory.
US Defense Secretary James Mattis said Pyongyang had forced "millions of Japanese into the duck and cover", reports said, while Secretary of State Rex Tillerson urged China and Russia, Pyongyang's main defenders, to take "direct actions" to rein it in.
The launch came a day after a North Korean organisation warned of a "telling blow" against Japan, accusing it of "dancing to the tune of the US" for supporting fresh UN sanctions.
"The four islands of the archipelago should be sunken into the sea by the nuclear bomb of Juche," the Korea Asia-Pacific Peace Committee (KAPPC) said in a statement, referring to the North's national philosophy of "Juche" or self-reliance.
- Oil shipments -
In response to the launch, South Korea's military immediately carried out a ballistic missile drill of its own, the defence ministry said, adding it took place while the North's rocket was still airborne.
One Hyunmu missile travelled 250 kilometres into the East Sea, Korea's name for the Sea of Japan -- a trajectory intentionally chosen to represent the distance to the launch site at Sunan, near Pyongyang's airport, it added.
But embarrassingly, another failed soon after being fired.
President Moon Jae-In told an emergency meeting of Seoul's national security council that dialogue with the North was "impossible in a situation like this", adding that the South had the power to destroy it.
But Seoul will decide next week whether to provide $8 million in humanitarian aid to the North.
The Security Council sanctions imposed on Monday are the strongest so far, banning the North's textile trade and imposing restrictions on shipments of oil products.
But analysts expect them to do little to dissuade Pyongyang, which says it needs nuclear weapons to defend itself against the threat of invasion by the US.
US Strategic Command chief Air Force General John Hyten told reporters Thursday that on the available information he was "assuming" the sixth test was an H-bomb.
Chronology of North Korean missile development
Here's how the programme got to where it is:
Late 1970s: North Korea starts working on a version of the Soviet Scud-B (range 300 kilometres or 186 miles). Test-fired in 1984
1987-92: Begins developing variant of Scud-C (500 km), Rodong-1 (1,300 km), Taepodong-1 (2,500 km), Musudan-1 (3,000 km) and Taepodong-2 (6,700 km)
Aug 1998: Test-fires Taepodong-1 over Japan
Sept 1999: Declares moratorium on long-range missile tests as ties with US improve
March 3, 2005: Ends moratorium on long-range missile testing, blaming Bush administration's "hostile" policy
Oct 9, 2006: First underground nuclear test
May 25, 2009: Second underground nuclear test, several times more powerful than the first
December 13, 2011: Leader Kim Jong-Il dies, is succeeded by his son Kim Jong-Un
December 12, 2012: The North launches multi-stage rocket and successfully places satellite in orbit
February 12, 2013: Third underground nuclear test
January 6, 2016: Fourth underground nuclear test, which Pyongyang claims was hydrogen bomb
March 9, 2016: Kim Jong-Un claims the North has successfully miniaturised a thermo-nuclear warhead
April 23, 2016: North test-fires a submarine-launched ballistic missile
July 8, 2016: US and South Korea announce plans to deploy an advanced missile defence system -- the US THAAD (Terminal High Altitude Area Defense)
August 3, 2016: North Korea fires a ballistic missile directly into Japanese-controlled waters for the first time
August 24, 2016: Successfully test-fires another submarine-launched ballistic missile
September 9, 2016: Fifth nuclear test
February 12, 2017: Tests ballistic missile, which flies about 500 kilometres (310 miles) before falling into the Sea of Japan
March 6, 2017: North fires four ballistic missiles in what is says is an exercise to hit US bases in Japan
March 19, 2017: North Korea says it has tested a new rocket engine
April 5, 2017: North Korea fires a ballistic missile into the Sea of Japan
May 2, 2017: THAAD anti-missile system goes operational in South Korea
May 14, 2017: North fires what it says is a "newly-developed mid/long-range strategic ballistic rocket, Hwasong-12", which flies 700 kilometres before landing in the Sea of Japan
May 29, 2017: Test fires a short-range ballistic missile which lands in Japan's exclusive economic zone
June 8, 2017: North Korea launches what it claims is new type of 'cruise rocket'
June 22, 2017: North Korea tests a rocket engine which could be fitted to an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) ahead of South Korean President Moon Jae-In's first trip to Washington since taking office
July 4, 2017: North Korea says it successfully tests an ICBM which is capable of reaching Alaska. Kim Jong-Un says it is a gift for the "American bastards"
July 28: Second successful ICBM test
August 6, 2017: UN Security Council unanimously adopts tougher sanctions on the North
August 9, 2017: US President Donald Trump threatens Pyongyang with "fire and fury" over its missile program
-- Hours later, North Korea says it is considering strikes near US strategic military installations in Guam
August 29, 2017: North Korea fires a ballistic missile over Japan. Tokyo says it is an "unprecedented, serious and grave threat"
September 3, 2017: North Korean state media claims the country has developed a hydrogen bomb which can be loaded into ICBM
-- North conducts its sixth and largest yet nuclear test. Monitoring groups estimate a yield of 250 kilotons, which is 16 times the size of the 15-kiloton US bomb that destroyed Hiroshima in 1945
September 4: South Korea and the US say they will deploy more anti-missile defences
September 12, 2017: UN Security Council unanimously adopts new sanctions, slapping a ban on textile exports and restricting shipments of oil products to North Korea
September 15: North Korea fires a ballistic missile over Japan and into the Pacific, responding to new UN sanctions with what appears to be its furthest-ever missile flight
Seoul (AFP) Sept 14, 2017
A North Korean organisation demanded Thursday that the United States be "beaten to death" like a "rabid dog" for spearheading fresh UN sanctions on Pyongyang over its latest nuclear test, adding ally Japan should be "sunken into the sea". The UN Security Council unanimously imposed an eighth set of sanctions on the North Monday, banning it from trading in textiles and restricting its oil imp ... read more
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