North Korea said on Tuesday it successfully test-launched an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), which flew a trajectory that an expert said could allow a weapon to hit the US state of Alaska, Reuters reports.
The launch comes days before leaders from the Group of 20 nations are due to discuss steps to rein in Pyongyang’s weapons programs, which the North has pursued in defiance of UN Security Council sanctions.
The launch, which North Korea’s state media said was ordered and supervised by leader Kim Jong-un, sent the rocket 933 kilometers reaching an altitude of 2,802 km (580 miles) over a flight time of 39 minutes, according to the news agency.
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 (60 miles) northwest of the North’s capital, Pyongyang.
“The test launch was conducted at the sharpest angle possible and did not have any negative effect on neighboring countries,” North Korea’s state media said in a statement.
The North also said its missiles were now capable of striking anywhere in the world.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in, who convened a national security council meeting, said the missile was believed to be an intermediate range type, but the military was also looking at the possibility it was an ICBM.
Stock markets in both South Korea and Japan fell after the missile launch, with the Kospi ending down 0.6 percent and Japan’s Nikkei share average ending down 0.1 percent.
Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said on Tuesday he will ask the presidents of China and Russia to play more constructive roles in efforts to stop the Pyongyang’s arms program.
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.
US President Donald 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 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.
China’s Foreign Ministry on Tuesday called for calm and restraint after the launch.
Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said United Nations Security Council resolutions had clear rules on North Korean missile launches and China is opposed to Pyongyang violating those rules. He was speaking at a daily news briefing.
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 Program 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.
However, Russia’s military said the North Korean missile appeared to be “medium-range”.
“The parametric flight data of the ballistic object corresponds to the tactical and technical characteristics of a medium-range ballistic missile,” Sputnik News quoted the defense ministry as saying in a statement.
North Korea has conducted four missile tests since South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in took office in May, vowing to use dialogue as well as pressure to bring Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile programs under control.
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(Updated; last posted at 3:06 p.m.)