North Korean’s latest intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) test proves that all of the USA is within striking distance, Pyongyang claimed today (Saturday, July 29).
Kim Jong Un said yesterday’s test demonstrated the secretive state’s ability to launch “at any place and time”, the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported, adding, “the leader said proudly the test also confirmed all the US mainland is within our striking range”.
“If the Yankees brandish the nuclear stick on this land again despite our repeated warnings, we will clearly teach them manners,” KCNA warned, later referring to the USA as “beast-like US imperialists”.
The US secretary of state, Rex Tillerson has condemned the test, and also pointed the finger of blame at Beijing and Moscow. “As the principal economic enablers of North Korea’s nuclear weapon and ballistic missile development programme, China and Russia bear unique and special responsibility for this growing threat to regional and global stability,” he said.
“Reckless and dangerous”
With its second ICBM test this month, North Korea is doubling down on its threat to develop nuclear-strike capability against the US mainland in the face of stern warnings from President Trump.
The US leader denounced the launch, which landed within Japan’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), as “reckless and dangerous”.
“By threatening the world, these weapons and tests further isolate North Korea, weaken its economy, and deprive its people,” he said in a statement.
“The United States will take all necessary steps to ensure the security of the American homeland and protect our allies in the region.”
South Korean, US and Japanese monitors all detected the late-night test.
Pentagon spokesman Jeff Davis said: “We assess that this missile was an intercontinental ballistic missile.”
The projectile travelled more than 600 miles before splashing down in the Sea of Japan.
However, the Russian military said it appeared to be a “medium-range” ballistic missile.
In both Seoul and Tokyo, meetings of national security councils have been convened while the US and South Korean militaries are conducting a live-fire exercise using surface-to-surface missiles.
“Time is running out”
Joel Wit, a senior fellow at the US-Korea Institute at John Hopkins University said the launch showed that time was running out for Washington to find a solution to the North Korean problem.
“Another North Korean test of what appears to be a missile that can reach the United States further emphasises the need for the Trump administration to focus like a laser on this increasingly dangerous situation,” he wrote on the institute’s 38 North website.
Yesterday’s launch came just hours after the US Senate passed bipartisan sanctions on Pyongyang in retaliation for an earlier test on July 4 — which was described by Kim as a “gift” to America on its Independence Day.
North Korea’s drive towards nuclear strike capability poses a serious challenge for President Trump, who is at loggerheads with Beijing over how to Kim’s regime.
“It’s clear Kim Jong-Un remains undeterred by the threat of tightened sanctions, and is not listening to its one major ally, China. The longer the world waits to deal with North Korea, the more advanced Pyongyang’s arsenal will become,” said Jean Lee at the Wilson Center thinktank.
Trump has repeatedly urged Beijing to put pressure on its neighbour, but Beijing maintains that dialogue is the only way forward.
It is not known whether the North has the capability to miniaturise a nuclear weapon to fit a missile or if it has mastered the technology needed for the projectile to survive re-entry into the Earth’s atmosphere. However, the country’s previous tests have surprised experts with the rate of technical progress.
“Conflict not unimaginable”
Reacting to the launch, UN spokesman Farhad Haq said it was “frustrating” that the secretary general’s calls for all sides to de-escalate tensions on the Korean peninsula had gone unheeded.
In an apparent reference to China, Haq said it was important for all parties to “use their particular influence to help resolve this.”
In all, six sets of UN sanctions have been imposed on North Korea since it first tested an atomic device in 2006, but two resolutions adopted last year significantly toughened the sanctions regime.
Meanwhile, the US military is preparing to conduct another test of a missile-intercept system in Alaska, perhaps as soon as Saturday.
Last week the US’s top military officer told a security forum in Aspen, Colorado, that conflict with North Korea was not “unimaginable”.
“What’s unimaginable to me is allowing a capability that would allow a nuclear weapon to land in Denver, Colorado – that’s unimaginable to me. And so my job will be to develop military options to make sure that doesn’t happen,” said General Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff.