North Korea says it has tested largest long-range missile, US adds sanctions

SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea said on Friday it had tested its largest-ever intercontinental ballistic missile on orders from leader Kim Jong Un, who vowed to expand the North’s “nuclear war deterrent” while preparing for a “long-standing confrontation” with the United states.

The report by state-run North Korean media came a day after South Korea’s and Japan’s militaries said they had detected the North launching an ICBM in its first long-range test since 2017.

The launch extended a spate of gun demonstrations this year that analysts say are aimed at forcing the United States to embrace the idea of ​​North Korea as a nuclear power and lift crippling sanctions on its battered economy, which has been further damaged by pandemic-related difficulties became.

State television dramatized the testing process like a Hollywood film, showing Kim walking in slow motion in front of his giant rocket, wearing sunglasses and a black leather motorcycle jacket. Quick cuts were edited to take turns showing Kim and other officers staring at their watches before Kim removes his sunglasses and nods, with the video then showing the missile being rolled out of the hangar.

Launched at a high angle to avoid neighbors’ territorial waters, the Hwasong-17 reached a maximum altitude of 6,248 kilometers (3,880 miles) and covered 1,090 kilometers (680 miles) during a 67-minute flight before collapsing into intervening waters landed North Korea and Japan, Pyongyang’s official Korean Central News Agency said.

KCNA claimed the launch met its technical goals and proved that the ICBM could operate rapidly in wartime conditions.

The South Korean and Japanese militaries had announced similar flight details, which analysts said indicated the missile could reach targets as far as 15,000 kilometers (9,320 miles) away if launched on a normal trajectory with a warhead weighing less than one barrel is fired. That would put the entire US mainland within striking distance.

With an estimated length of about 25 meters (82 feet), the Hwasong-17 is the North’s longest-ranged weapon and by some estimates the largest road-mobile ballistic missile system in the world. North Korea unveiled the missile at a military parade in October 2020, and Thursday’s launch marked its first full-scale test.

KCNA paraphrased Kim, saying his new weapon would make the “whole world clearly” aware of the North’s reinforced nuclear forces. He vowed that his military would acquire “impressive military and technical capabilities, unperturbed by any military threat and blackmail, fully prepared for a protracted confrontation with US imperialists.”

The agency released photos of the rocket leaving a trail of orange flames as it rose from a launch vehicle on an airport runway near the capital Pyongyang, and Kim smiled and clapped as he celebrated with military officials from an observation deck.

Other images showed Kim writing a memo ordering the Hwasong-17 test flight and authorizing the launch. Kim has handwritten orders for some of the most significant weapons displays of his rule over North Korea, including his last ICBM test flight in November 2017, which capped a highly provocative series of nuclear and missile tests that sparked a verbal exchange of war threats with then-President Donald Trump .

The South Korean military responded to Thursday’s launch with live-fire drills of its own land-launched missiles, a fighter jet and a ship, underscoring a resurgence in tensions as diplomacy remains frozen. It confirmed readiness to conduct precision strikes against North Korea’s missile launch sites and command and support facilities.

US Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin held separate phone calls with his counterparts in South Korea and Japan, during which they discussed response measures to North Korean missile activity and pledged to increase defense cooperation, according to US Defense Department statements.

Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi said he spoke on the phone with South Korea’s counterpart Chung Eui-yong and agreed to strengthen bilateral cooperation against the North Korean threat and seek further UN Security Council action against Pyongyang. Seoul’s Unification Ministry, which oversees inter-Korean affairs, criticized the North for breaking its self-imposed moratorium on ICBM tests.

“Whatever North Korea’s intention, the North must immediately suspend measures that create tension on the Korean peninsula and destabilize the regional security situation and return to the table for dialogue and negotiations,” said ministry spokesman Cha Deok- cheol, in a briefing.

The United States called for an open Security Council meeting to start and expects it on Friday, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the US ambassador to the United Nations, told reporters.

The United States also imposed new sanctions on five entities and individuals in Russia and North Korea for transferring sensitive items to the North’s missile program, State Department spokesman Ned Price said.

Thursday’s test was North Korea’s 12th starting round this year and the most provocative since President Joe Biden took office.

North Korea’s resumption of nuclear brinkmanship reflects a determination to consolidate its status as a nuclear power and wrest economic concessions from Washington and others from a position of strength, analysts say. Kim may also feel the need to trumpet his military achievements and drum internal loyalty while the country faces economic difficulties.

The other recent tests included an alleged hypersonic weapon, a long-range cruise missile and an intermediate-range missile that could reach Guam, a key US military hub in the Pacific. The US and South Korean militaries had expected a full test of the Hwasong-17 after concluding that two of the recent intermediate-range launches contained components of the new ICBM.

Following his series of nuclear and ICBM tests in 2017, Kim suspended such tests before his first meeting with Trump. But diplomacy faltered in 2019 when Americans rebuffed North Korea’s calls for a comprehensive lifting of US-led sanctions on the north in exchange for a limited relinquishment of its nuclear capabilities.

ICBMs launched on three test flights in 2017 have demonstrated their ability to reach the US mainland. The larger Hwasong-17 could be armed with multiple warheads to overwhelm anti-missile defenses.

North Korea’s ruling party issued a veiled threat in January to end Kim’s moratorium on ICBMs and nuclear tests, citing US hostility.

The South Korean military has also uncovered signs that North Korea may be restoring some of the nuclear test tunnels it detonated just before Kim met Trump for the first time in 2018. Some experts say the North could resume nuclear testing in the coming months.


AP writer Mari Yamaguchi in Tokyo contributed to the report.

Copyright © 2022 by The Associated Press. All rights reserved. North Korea says it has tested largest long-range missile, US adds sanctions

Dais Johnston

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