N. Korea claims missile test was a success
SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea’s leader claimed success Thursday in a test of an intermediate-range ballistic missile, boasting that it demonstrates the capability of hitting U.S. bases in the Pacific.
His comments came a day after the North fired back-to-back missiles from its east coast after failing with four previous tries since mid-April. The first was considered another failure, but officials said the second flew about 250 miles and reached an altitude of at least 620 miles.
The state-run Korean Central News Agency said the Hwasong-10 missile, also known as a Musudan, actually flew 880 miles high after taking off from a mobile launch pad. It said the missile “accurately landed in the targeted waters” after traveling along a planned flight path.
Secretary of Defense Ash Carter said the launch shows the need to enhance missile defenses for all U.S. allies in the region.
“No matter what this or that test went to do, in terms of time of flight, it doesn’t change the plans that we have ... We need to stay ahead of the threat,” he told a news conference in Kentucky.
The tests raised already-high tensions over the North’s refusal to give up its nuclear ambitions, despite international condemnation and harsh U.N. sanctions imposed after a fourth atomic test in January.
The missile test drew condemnation from Washington, Japan, South Korea and other world powers.
The Security Council expressed “strong concerns and opposition” to the launch, saying it was “in violation” of all relevant council resolutions. The council held an emergency meeting late Wednesday.
Samantha Power, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., said North Korea’s action “underscores how important it is for us to come together to ensure consequences for this inherently destabilizing behavior.” She also noted that the North Koreans “make progress and they learn things” as they keep testing missiles that are able to carry nuclear weapons.
China — a traditional ally of the North — called on all sides to make a constructive effort to resume dialogue and ease the tensions on the Korean Peninsula.
Kim Jong Un personally gave the order for the launch and observed it from a watch tower, according to the report. He has repeatedly turned up at launches and other tests and inspected a purported miniaturized nuclear weapon in what appears to be an effort to show he is fully in charge of the reclusive country.
Kim was quoted as saying the test further strengthened the country’s ability to stage a nuclear attack.
“We have the sure capability to attack in an overall and practical way the Americans in the Pacific operation theatre,” he said. The missile is believed to have a potential range of 2,180 miles, which would enable it to reach the U.S. territory of Guam and other bases in the region.
North Korean scientists appeared to be under tremendous pressure to produce results, as evidenced by the continued pace of tests despite repeated failures. The results came a week before the country’s parliament is due to convene in a session that is expected to be used to further shore up Kim’s power.
Analysts said the altitude reached in the second test was significant because it suggests many problems plaguing the missile have been fixed and it was likely fired in an arc over the Sea of Japan to avoid hitting any territory.
KCNA seemed to acknowledge that, saying the test was carried out by the “high-angle fire system under the simulation of its maximum range” and did not threaten the security of surrounding countries.
The missile tests have raised alarm in Japan, where Reuters reported that the Defense Ministry said it was analyzing the nose cone of a North Korean rocket that washed up on a beach and was believed to have been fired on Feb. 7. That was when North Korea said it launched a long-range rocket that put a satellite into orbit.
North and South Korea remain technically in a state of war after the 1950-53 conflict ended with an armistice instead of a peace treaty. Some 28,500 U.S. servicemembers are stationed on the peninsula.