WAHINGTON – North Korea has launched its second intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), the US, South Korea and Japan said Friday, with experts warning that US cities are now within Pyongyang’s range.
The missile was launched at 11.41pm (1541 GMT) from Mupyong-ni, near the Chinese border, and travelled 1,000 kilometres before landing in the Sea of Japan, Pentagon spokesman Captain Jeff Davis said in a statement.
North Korea confirmed the launch on Saturday, saying the missile had flown for 47 minutes and reached an altitude of more than 3,700 kilometres, according to the South Korean news agency Yonhap.
If those numbers are correct, a missile flown on a standard trajectory would have a range of 10,400 kilometres, according to David Wright, co-director of the UCS Global Security Program and an expert on arms control.
His calculations showed that “Los Angeles, Denver, and Chicago appear to be well within range of this missile, and that Boston and New York may be just within range,” he wrote in a blog posting.
Firing the missiles on an upward trajectory allows Pyongyang to avoid flying them over Japan.
North Korea claimed that all of the US mainland was now within its striking range and said the test was aimed at giving a “stern” warning to Washington, which has threatened it with military action.
“Washington’s threat of war only prompts us to further awaken and justifies our will to develop nuclear weapons,” North Korean leader Kim Jong Un was quoted as saying by North Korean news agency KCNA.
US President Donald Trump said the launch was “only the latest reckless and dangerous action by the North Korean regime” and said that it would further isolate the nation, weaken its economy and harm its people.
Meanwhile, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said China and Russia bore “unique and special responsibility for this growing threat to regional and global stability” as the “principal economic enablers” of Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile programmes.
In response to the test, the US and South Korean armies conducted joint military training exercises, firing missiles into the territorial waters off South Korea’s east coast.
The US Army said the missile systems used in the exercises could be rapidly deployed and provided “deep-strike precision capability.”
Japan and South Korea also held emergency meetings of their national security councils.
South Korea’s Defence Minister Song Young Moo said that the US was sending “strategic assets” to South Korea in the wake of the test, which usually refers to high-profile weapons systems such as aircraft carriers and stealth bombers, according to Yonhap.
The test was a “grave provocation” which jeopardized world peace, he said, adding: “It’s also a reckless act dashing the international community’s hopes of eased inter-Korean military tensions.”
South Korea had recently offered the North the possibility of bilateral military talks.
President Moon Jae In also said that unilateral sanctions would be considered against Pyongyang and ordered the deployment of additional THAAD (the US anti-missile system) launchers to Seongju, 300 kilometres south-east of Seoul.
China meanwhile, North Korea’s most important ally, urged Pyongyang to abide by the relevant UN Security Council resolutions and refrain from escalating tensions, according to a Foreign Ministry spokesman quoted by the news agency Xinhua.