North Korea said today it had successfully tested a new ballistic missile, triggering a US-led call for an urgent UN Security Council meeting after a launch seen as a challenge to President Donald Trump.
The North’s leader Kim Jong-Un “expressed great satisfaction over the possession of another powerful nuclear attack means which adds to the tremendous might of the country”, state news agency KCNA said.
The missile was launched yesterday near the western city of Kusong and flew east about 500 kilometres before falling into the Sea of Japan, South Korea’s defence ministry said.
Photos released by KCNA showed the missile blasting into the sky with a smiling Kim watching from the command centre, and standing on the launch field surrounded by dozens of cheering soldiers and scientists.
It said Kim “personally guided” preparations for yesterday’s test, which it described as a surface-to-surface medium long-range Pukguksong-2, a “Korean-style new type strategic weapon system”.
KCNA said the missile was powered by a solid-fuel engine – which requires a far shorter refuelling time than conventional liquid fuel-powered missiles, according to Yun Duk-Min of the state-run Institute for Foreign Affairs and Security in Seoul.
“They leave little warning time and therefore pose greater threat to opponents,” he said, adding that such missiles are harder to detect before launch by satellite surveillance.
The North has previously made claims for its weapons capabilities that analysts consider unconvincing. But Seoul’s military confirmed the North’s claim on the solid-fuel engine, suggesting progress in its capabilities.
Pyongyang’s latest announcement was the first time a Pukguksong-2 has been mentioned, although last August it test-fired what it said was a submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) marked as a Pukguksong-1, a name which translates as “North Star”.
Kim said at the time that the missile, which was launched towards Japan, put the US mainland and the Pacific within striking range.
North Korea claims it has developed an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) capable of hitting the US mainland but it has not tested one as yet.
The United States, Japan and South Korea responded to the North’s confirmation by requesting an urgent UN Security Council meeting to discuss the launch.
The council is expected to hold consultations today.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, whose country would be in range of a hostile North Korean missile launch, called the test “absolutely intolerable” during an impromptu press conference with Trump in Florida yesterday.
North Korea is barred under UN resolutions from any use of ballistic missile technology.