North Korea says Hwasong-18 ICBM test was response to US hostility

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North Korea said on Tuesday it had tested the isolated state’s newest ICBM on Monday to gauge the war readiness of its nuclear force against mounting US hostility, as Washington and its allies began operating a real-time missile data sharing system.

North Korean state media said leader Kim Jong Un watched Monday’s launch of the Hwasong-18 intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) at a site east of the capital, Pyongyang. The missile reached an altitude of 6,518 kilometers (4,050 miles), flying 1,002 kilometers and accurately hitting the intended target, an empty patch of sea, state media said.

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Kim said the launch sends “a clear signal to the hostile forces, who have fanned up their reckless military confrontation hysteria” against the North, state news agency KCNA reported.

Kim said the drill “displayed the DPRK’s will for toughest counteraction and its overwhelming strength”. DPRK is short for the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

He presented “some new important tasks for accelerating the development of the DPRK’s nuclear strategic forces”, KCNA said, without elaborating.

“The US imperialists and their vassal forces’ vicious ambition for confrontation will not abate of its own accord, he said, stressing the need for the DPRK to never overlook all the reckless and irresponsible military threats of the enemies.”

South Korea and Japan said that based on the flight data on Monday, the North had fired an ICBM with the range to hit anywhere in the United States. The launch was condemned by South Korea, Japan and the United States as a flagrant violation of UN Security Council resolutions.

On the same day, China, a Security Council permanent member that has previously approved sanctions against Pyongyang, held a high-level meeting with North Korea in Beijing, discussing cooperation and issues of “common concern” in “a friendly atmosphere,” the countries’ state media said.

The UN Security Council is due to meet on Tuesday at the request of the United States and other countries to discuss the launch.

South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol, who has taken a hard line against Pyongyang since taking office last year, said Kim Jong Un’s regime “will come to realize provocative actions will only bring greater pain to itself.”

Missile detection system

In a joint announcement on Tuesday, South Korea, Japan and the United States said they had activated a system to detect and assess North Korea’s missile launches in real-time and established a multi-year trilateral military exercise plan.

On Sunday, the North condemned a US military show of force, including the arrival of an aircraft carrier and nuclear-powered submarine in South Korea, as “war” moves, and fired a short-range ballistic missile into the sea off its east coast.

South Korea said Monday’s missile launch was a solid-fuel Hwasong-18. It flew in a sharply lofted trajectory and landed in the sea west of Japan’s Hokkaido island.

North Korea’s state media published what it said were photographs of the launch, showing the missile blasting off from a snow-covered field trailing a plume of smoke.

The ICBM’s lofted trajectory and 74-minute flight time are compatible with an operational range of up to 15,000 kilometers (9,300 miles) if launched at a flatter, standard trajectory, which puts all of the mainland United States within reach, Japanese defense officials said.

North Korea also criticized a high-level meeting between US and South Korean officials last week where upgraded responses to nuclear threats and joint military drills were discussed.

The United States continued to demonstrate a confrontational attitude by bringing in nuclear-powered submarines, strategic bombers and an aircraft carrier near the Korean peninsula, it said.

The US nuclear-powered attack submarine USS Missouri arrived in the South Korean port of Busan on Sunday, the latest US strategic military asset to be deployed as part of Washington’s pact with Seoul to boost defense readiness.

The United States and South Korea have increased the intensity of joint military drills against threats from the North, which has tested a range of ballistic missiles and in November launched its first military spy satellite.

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