China calls for calm after North Korea claims first successful launch of ICBM that can ‘strike any place in the world’
If this type of missile becomes fully operational, it could potentially deliver a nuclear warhead to the US mainland
China has called for calm and restraint after North Korea claimed to have test-launched its first intercontinental ballistic missile that is capable of hitting anywhere in the world.
Foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang also defended China’s “relentless efforts” to resolve the North Korean nuclear standoff after US President Donald Trump called on Beijing to “end this nonsense once and for all”.
The United States on Tuesday requested an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council after North Korea declared that it had successfully tested its first intercontinental ballistic missile, the US mission said. The meeting is expected to take place on Wednesday.
US Ambassador Nikki Haley on Tuesday spoke by phone with China’s Ambassador Liu Jieyi, who holds the council presidency this month, to convey the US request for an urgent meeting.
North Korea’s announcement Tuesday came after the launch of a ballistic missile in the morning. It flew about 39 minutes and reached an altitude of 2,802 kilometres, before landing in waters within Japan’s exclusive economic zone, according to the announcement.
North Korea’s claims the missile reached that altitude could not be verified. However Japan’s Defence Ministry said it reached an altitude that “greatly exceeded” 2,500 kilometres.
A test-launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile, if confirmed, would be considered a game-changer by countries looking to check North Korea’s push for a nuclear-armed missile that can reach anywhere in the United States.
The test still may be the North’s most successful yet; a weapon analyst says missile could be powerful enough to reach Alaska.
The “landmark” test of a Hwasong-14 missile was overseen by leader Kim Jong-un, an emotional female announcer said.
It flew 933 kilometres, she added.
Watch: North Korea claims successful ICBM launch
The North was “a strong nuclear power state” and had “a very powerful ICBM that can strike any place in the world” she said.
There are still doubts whether the North can miniaturise a nuclear weapon sufficiently to fit it onto a missile nose cone, or whether it has mastered the technology needed for it to survive the difficult re-entry into the Earth’s atmosphere.
In his New Year’s address, Kim said his country had reached the final stage of preparing to test-launch the long-range missile.
Officials from South Korea, Japan and the United States said the missile landed in Japan’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) after being launched near an airfield in Panghyon, about 100 km northwest of the North’s capital, Pyongyang.
Japan said on Monday the United States, South Korea and Japan will have a trilateral summit on North Korea at the G20. China’s leader Xi Jinping will also be at the July 7-8 meeting in Hamburg, Germany.
Trump, responding to the latest launch, wrote on Twitter: “North Korea has just launched another missile. Does this guy have anything better to do with his life?” an apparent reference to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.
“Hard to believe South Korea and Japan will put up with this much longer. Perhaps China will put a heavy move on North Korea and end this nonsense once and for all!”, Trump said in a series of tweets.
North Korea has just launched another missile. Does this guy have anything better to do with his life? Hard to believe that South Korea.....
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 4, 2017
....and Japan will put up with this much longer. Perhaps China will put a heavy move on North Korea and end this nonsense once and for all!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 4, 2017
North Korea has conducted nuclear and missile tests to show defiance in the face of international pressure and to raise the stakes when Pyongyang sees regional powers getting ready for talks or sanctions, analysts say.
White House officials said Trump was briefed on the latest launch, which took place hours before Independence Day celebrations in the United States. North Korea has previously fired missiles around this holiday.
Pyongyang has conducted missile-related activities at an unprecedented pace since the start of last year, but analysts had thought it was years away from having a nuclear-tipped ICBM. capable of hitting the United States.
North Korea is also trying to develop intermediate-range missiles capable of hitting US bases in the Pacific. The last North Korean launches before Tuesday were of land-to-sea cruise missiles on June 8.
David Wright, co-director of the Global Security Programme at the US-based Union of Concerned Scientists, said the assessments of the flight time and distance suggest the missile might have been launched on a “very highly lofted” trajectory of more than 2,800 km.
The same missile could reach a maximum range of roughly 6,700 km on a standard trajectory, Wright said in a blog post.
“That range would not be enough to reach the lower 48 states or the large islands of Hawaii, but would allow it to reach all of Alaska,” he said.
South Korea’s President Moon said on Monday in a meeting with former US president Barack Obama that North Korea now faces its “last opportunity” to engage in talks with the outside world.
North Korea has conducted four missile tests since Moon took office in May, vowing to use dialogue as well as pressure to bring Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile programmes under control.
Earlier this week, North Korea was a key topic in phone calls between Trump and the leaders of China and Japan. Leaders of both Asian countries reaffirmed their commitment to a denuclearised Korean Peninsula.
Trump has recently suggested he was running out of patience with China’s modest steps to pressure North Korea.
Agence France-Presse, Reuters, Associated Press