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Calls for UN to step in after Kim Jong-Un 'personally guides' ballistic missile launch

Kim Jong-Un said it added to his country’s “tremendous might”.

Image: Lee Jin-man/AP

NORTH KOREA SAYS it has 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 (East Sea), South Korea’s defence ministry has 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.

An official with the South Korean military’s Joint Chiefs of Staff told reporters the Pukguksong-2 appeared to have been fired based on the same “cold launch” technology used in last year’s SLBM test.

The method — in which a missile is initially propelled by compressed gas before its engine ignites mid-air — is considered safer and easier to hide its original launch location.

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 longest-range missile it has tested is the intermediate Musudan which is theoretically capable of reaching US bases on Guam, but most have ended in failure including one last October which exploded shortly after launch.

© AFP 2017

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