Kim Jong Un says missile gives North Korea ability to attack U.S. in Pacific

Kim Jong Un says missile gives North Korea ability to attack U.S. in Pacific
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un looks at a rocket warhead tip after a simulated test of atmospheric re-entry of a ballistic missile, at an unidentified location in this undated file photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang on March 15, 2016. Photo by Reuters/KCNA/File photo
North Korea leader Kim Jong Un said after supervising the test launch of a "medium long-range strategic ballistic missile" that the country came to possess "the sure capability to attack" U.S. interests in the Pacific, official media reported on Thursday.

South Korean and U.S. military officials have said the North launched what appeared to be two intermediate-range missiles dubbed Musudan on Wednesday. The first of the two was considered a failure.

The second reached a high altitude in the direction of Japan before plunging into the sea about 400 km (250 miles) away, they said.

The test-fire was successful without any impact to the security of neighbouring countries, the North's KCNA news agency said, referring to the missile as a "Hwasong-10." Hwasong is Korean for Mars.

"We have the sure capability to attack in an overall and practical way the Americans in the Pacific operation theatre," KCNA quoted Kim as saying.

South Korea and the United States condemned the launch as an unacceptable violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions.

Japan's Defense Minister Gen Nakatani said the launch was an indication that North Korea's threat to Japan was intensifying.

The United Nations Security Council, which in March imposed new sanctions on the North following its fourth nuclear test in January and a long-range rocket launch in February, was due to meet under the request of the United States and Japan.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon described North Korea's latest ballistic missile launches as a "brazen and irresponsible act" ahead of a U.N. Security Council meeting on the issue on Wednesday.

North Korea has failed in five attempts to launch the inter-mediate range missiles, which theoretically have the range to reach any part of Japan and the U.S. territory of Guam. South Korea said Washington and Seoul were analyzing whether the sixth missile launch was successful or not.

Japan and South Korea said the missile flew at a height of 1,000 kilometers in a distance of 400 kilometers off its east coast. Experts said North Korea deliberately raised the angle of the launch to avoid hitting any territory of Japan.

Pentagon chief says the test shows need for better defenses

U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter said on Wednesday he did not know if North Korea's latest missile test was a success, but it flew further than past attempts and showed the need to step up defenses in South Korea, the United States and Japan.

Speaking with reporters at Fort Knox, Kentucky, Carter acknowledged that one of the two missiles fired "flew for a long time."

"I don't know whether it was successful. I don't know what the test objectives were as seen by the North Koreans," he said.

"But for whatever reason, and with whatever level of success, this shows the need for us to continue to do what we're doing, which is build these missile defenses of various ranges to protect both our South Korean allies, U.S. forces on the Korean Peninsula, Japan, and U.S. territory."

The United States and South Korea began formal discussions on deploying a new missile defense system in South Korea after North Korea conducted a fifth nuclear test in January, then launched a rocket into space as part of a program seen as a cover for intercontinental ballistic missile development.

U.S. officials said this month that plans for deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system were moving ahead and an announcement could be expected soon, in spite of objections by China.

John Schilling, an aerospace expert who contributes to the 38 North Korea monitoring website, said it appeared North Korea had been seeking to show the full performance of the missile's propulsion system while avoiding an overflight of Japan.

But he said the successful firing of the second missile appeared a matter of luck rather than real progress.

"If they want a weapon, they will have to stand down for a year or so to figure out what went right and what went wrong, then come back with another test program at a more realistic pace," he said.

"If all they want is a propaganda win, they'll probably claim this as a complete success and go home before they have any more embarrassing failures."

North Korea is believed to have up to 30 Musudan missiles, according to South Korean media, which officials said were first deployed around 2007, although the North had never attempted to test-fire them until this year.

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