North Korea fires medium-range ballistic missile

Flew 310 miles
The aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson transits the Philippine Sea on April 26, 2017.
The aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson transits the Philippine Sea on April 26, 2017.

SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea fired a missile on Sunday, a week after its successful test of a new intermediate-range ballistic missile, South Korean officials said.

The missile took off from a location near Pukchang, northeast of Pyongyang, the North Korean capital, and flew 310 miles before falling in waters off the county’s east coast, the South Korean military said in a statement.

The U.S. Pacific Command said that it had “detected and tracked” a medium-range ballistic missile that was launched by the North about 9:59 a.m. Hawaii time and landed in the Sea of Japan. It said that “the missile launch from North Korea did not pose a threat to North America.”

The launch was made as President Donald Trump, who has pressed China to rein in the nuclear ambitions of the North’s leader, Kim Jong Un, was traveling on a nine-day trip to the Middle East and Europe.

In a statement, the White House said: “We are aware that North Korea launched an MRBM. This system, last tested in February, has a shorter range than the missiles launched in North Korea’s three most recent tests.”

The Japanese military said it was analyzing the height and trajectory of the missile. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said that with the missile test coming just a week after the most recent test, the North was “trampling on the international community’s efforts aimed at a peaceful settlement.”

Last Sunday, North Korea successfully launched what it called a new ballistic missile that can carry a large, heavy nuclear warhead. The ground-to-ground missile, known as Hwasong-12, landed in the sea between the North and Japan, sparking angry comments from Trump, as well as from the newly elected president of South Korea, Moon Jae-in, and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan.

The missile soared to an altitude of 1,312 miles before falling in open water about 480 miles away from the launching site. It was believed to have a longer range than any other North Korean missile tested before.

Analysts said the missile looked like an intermediate-range ballistic missile that could fly far enough to target key U.S. military bases in the Pacific, including those in Guam.

The successful test drew keen attention in the region because its extended range indicated that the country was making progress toward building an intercontinental ballistic missile.

North Korea later claimed that the launch was in part to test the “re-entry” technology, which is needed to protect a warhead from the intense heat and vibration as a long-range missile crashes through the earth’s atmosphere.

After an initial analysis of the flight data from the test on Sunday, the South Korean military identified the missile as Pukguksong-2. The North last test-launched Pukguksong-2 on Feb. 12, while Trump was hosting Abe on an official visit. That missile flew 310 miles.

North Korea has said that Pukguksong-2 could carry a nuclear payload. The missile was also fired from a mobile-launch vehicle and used a solid-fuel technology that experts say will make it easier to hide and launch it on short notice.

Although North Korea has vowed to develop the ability to attack the United States with nuclear warheads and has tested missiles that can reach throughout the Korean Peninsula and its vicinity, it has never tested a long-range missile that could fly across the Pacific.

Missile experts say North Korea may still be years away from mastering the technologies needed to build a reliable intercontinental ballistic missile. Under a series of United Nations Security Council resolutions, the country is banned from developing or testing ballistic missiles.

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