North Korea said on Monday it had successfully conducted a mid- to-long-range missile test and would continue such launches “any time, any place”, defying UN Security Council resolutions and warnings from the United States.
North Korea, which regularly threatens to destroy the United States in a sea of flames, has accused Washington of pushing the Korean peninsula to the brink of nuclear war with recent military drills with South Korea and Japan.
The North’s KCNA news agency said Sunday’s test launch verified the homing feature of the warhead that allowed it to survive “under the worst re-entry situation” and accurately detonate.
It also tested the North’s capability to carry a “large-size heavy nuclear warhead”, KCNA said.
“The test-fire proved to the full all the technical specifications of the rocket … like guidance and stabilization systems … and reconfirmed the reliability of new rocket engine under the practical flight circumstances,” KCNA said.
The test “represents a level of performance never before seen from a North Korean missile”, John Schilling, an aerospace expert, said in an analysis on the U.S.-based 38 North website.
“It appears to have not only demonstrated an intermediate-range ballistic missile that might enable them to reliably strike the U.S. base at Guam, but more importantly, may represent a substantial advance to developing an intercontinental ballistic missile.”
The missile flew 787 km (489 miles) on a trajectory reaching an altitude of 2,111.5 km (1,312 miles), KCNA said.
North Korea has been developing a long-range missile capable of striking the mainland United States mounted with a nuclear warhead. That would require a flight of 8,000 km (4,800 miles) or more and technology to ensure a warhead’s stable re-entry into the atmosphere.
“The test-firing of ICBMs will occur at any time and place, at the will of North Korea’s highest leadership,” North Korea’s ambassador to China, Ji Jae Ryong, told reporters in Beijing on Monday, a day before the UN Security Council meets in New York to discuss the test.
North Korea has defied calls to curb its missile and nuclear weapons programs, testing its relationship with its lone major ally, China, which has always called for talks to resolve the issue, and prompting South Korea’s new president, Moon Jae-in, to “strongly condemn” Sunday’s action.
U.S. President Donald Trump warned in an interview with Reuters this month that a “major, major conflict” with North Korea was possible. In a show of force, the United States sent an aircraft carrier strike group, led by the USS Carl Vinson, to waters off the Korean peninsula to conduct drills with South Korea and Japan.
It says the “era of strategic patience” with North Korea is over.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said in Beijing that Moscow was opposed to any new countries acquiring nuclear weapons, but that the world should talk to North Korea rather than threaten it.
“I want to confirm that we are categorically against the expansion of the club of nuclear powers, including with the Korean peninsula and North Korea,” said Putin, who said any such move would be “harmful and dangerous”.
“But at the same time, we understand that what we have observed in the world recently, and specifically flagrant violations of international law and incursions into the territory of foreign states, changes in regime, lead to such kinds of arms races.”
Putin did not specify what countries he had in mind, but he has in the past repeatedly criticized the United States for military operations in Iraq, Libya and Syria, and accused it of trying to oust legitimate governments.
The Russian Defense Ministry said on Sunday that the missile crashed into the Sea of Japan around 500 km (310 miles) off the Russian coast.