North Korea latest missile launch a global threat – US

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North Korea has fired its highest-ever intercontinental ballistic missile and poses a worldwide threat, US Secretary of Defence James Mattis has said.

Earlier the Pentagon said the missile had flown for about 1,000km (620 miles) before falling into the Sea of Japan.

The launch, early on Wednesday, is the latest in a series that have raised international tensions.

North Korea’s last ballistic missile launch was in September and came days after its sixth nuclear test.

Mr Mattis was speaking at the White House as he briefed US President Donald Trump and senior officials on the missile launch.

“It went higher, frankly, than any previous shots they have taken,” he said, adding that the North was building “ballistic missiles that threaten everywhere in the world”.

South Korean news agency Yonhap said that the missile was launched from Pyongsong, in South Pyongan province.

Japanese government officials said the missile travelled for about 50 minutes but did not fly over Japan, as some have done in the past.

President Trump was briefed while the missile was still in the air, the White House said. Afterwards he said: “We will take care of it.”

South Korean President Moon Jae-in later spoke to President Trump as they reaffirmed their “strong condemnation of North Korea’s reckless campaign”, the White House said in a statement.

The two leaders said the North’s latest missile test “underscores the grave threat” posed “not only to the US, but to the entire world,” the statement added.

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A problem without a solution

Jonathan Marcus, BBC Defence and Diplomatic Correspondent

This missile test, the first for some two months, suggests that the lull in firings was not due to North Korea being cowed by Mr Trump’s rhetoric or even by Chinese pressure. Experts have indeed pointed to similar seasonal slowdowns in testing in the past.

President Trump, responding to the test, says that his administration will handle it. But handle it how ? The US has called for an urgent meeting of the UN Security Council. And Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has spoken of stepping up the pressure on Pyongyang.

But North Korea is already one of the most isolated and heavily sanctioned states in the world. There are few new levers to pull.

North Korea is seemingly a problem without a solution and its nuclear and missile programmes are now, once again, back at the top of the Trump administration’s security agenda.

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South Korea’s military said it had responded with a missile exercise of its own.

Condemnation of the launch was swift:

  • The Japanese government said they would “never accept North Korea’s continuous provocative behaviour” and PM Shinzo Abe called for an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council
  • South Korean President Moon Jae-in urged the international community to continue applying sanctions against Pyongyang
  • The EU called the launch a “further unacceptable violation” of North Korea’s international obligations
  • Britain’s ambassador to the UN called it “a reckless act”
What missiles does North Korea have?

The North is thought to be focusing efforts on building long-range missiles with the potential of reaching the mainland continental US.

Officials in Pyongyang said the first of the longer-range missiles it tested in July could hit “any part of the world”, but the US military called it an intermediate-range missile instead.

Its last nuclear test reportedly involved a miniaturised hydrogen bomb that could be loaded onto a long-range missile, raising tensions with the US even further.

Last week, President Trump announced that the US was re-designating North Korea a state sponsor of terrorism because of its missile and nuclear programme.

The US imposed fresh sanctions against Pyongyang. The measures targeted North Korean shipping operations and Chinese companies that traded with the North.

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Major North Korean missile tests in 2017

North Korea has carried out numerous missile tests this year. Some of these exploded shortly after launch, but others travelled for hundreds of miles before landing in the sea. Here are some of the major tests reported so far:

12 February– A medium-range ballistic missile launched from Banghyon air base near the west coast. It flew east towards the Sea of Japan for about 500km.

4 April– A medium-range ballistic missile fired from the eastern port of Sinpo into the Sea of Japan. South Korea’s defence ministry said the missile flew about 60km.

4 July– Pyongyang claimed to have successfully tested an intercontinental ballistic missile for the first time. Officials said it reached an altitude of 2,802km and flew for 39 minutes.

29 August– North Korea fired what is thought to be its first nuclear-weapon capable ballistic missile over Japan. It was launched from near Pyongyang and reached a height of about 550km.

15 September– A ballistic missile was fired across Japan for the second time and landed in the sea off Hokkaido. It reached an altitude of about 770km and travelled 3,700km.

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