North Korea’s successful missile test-launch signals major advances in developing an intercontinental ballistic missile, experts said, as Russian President Vladimir Putin expressed rejection to any new country acquiring nuclear weapons, but that the world should talk to Pyongyang rather than threaten it.
The isolated country 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 or more and technology to ensure a warhead’s stable re-entry into the atmosphere.
The new strategic ballistic missile named Hwasong-12, fired on Sunday at the highest angle to avoid affecting neighboring countries’ security, flew 787 km on a trajectory reaching an altitude of 2,111.5 km, the North’s official KCNA said.
The reported details were largely consistent with South Korean and Japanese assessments that it flew further and higher than an intermediate-range missile (IRBM) tested in February from the same region, northwest of Pyongyang.
Jeffrey Lewis of the Middlebury Institute of International Studies in the US told AFP: “This is the longest-range missile North Korea has ever tested.”
On the respected 38 North website, aerospace engineering specialist John Schilling said it appeared to demonstrate an intermediate-range ballistic missile that could “reliably strike the US base at Guam” in the Pacific.
“More importantly,” he added, it “may represent a substantial advance to developing an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM)”.
Korea Monday celebrated the launch, confirming the missile was capable of carrying a “heavy nuclear warhead”.
As for Putin, speaking in Beijing, he said nuclear tests of the type that Pyongyang had been carrying out in recent weeks were unacceptable, but that a peaceful solution to rising tensions on the Korean peninsula was needed.
“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.”
Pyongyang says it needs atomic weapons to defend itself against the threat of invasion.
In April it put dozens of missiles on show at a giant military parade through the capital, including one that appeared to be the type launched on Sunday.
The North has carried out two atomic tests and dozens of missile launches since the beginning of last year in its quest to develop a missile capable of delivering a nuclear warhead to the continental United States — something President Donald Trump has vowed “won’t happen”.