Published: Tue, May 16, 2017
Sport | By Gary Shelton

Why North Korea's latest missile test is a huge step forward

Amid condemnation in Seoul, Tokyo and Washington, a jubilant North Korean leader Kim Jong Un promised more nuclear and missile tests and warned that his country's weapons could strike the United States mainland and Pacific holdings.

North Korea on Sunday test-fired a ballistic missile from a region near its west coast amid tense relations with USA, global media reported.

President Trump has said he would be willing to meet North Korea's Kim Jong Un, while Pyongyang hinted prior to Saturday's test it might be willing to hold talks.

The test is unlikely to mark a new phase in North Korea's missile and nuclear ambitions.

It was different because it flew high more than twelve hundred miles up, and more than 400 miles out, close to Russian Federation.

The missile, which was launched at a high angle, reached the maximum altitude of more than 2,111.5 kilometers before landing in the East Sea 787 km away.

North Korea continues to threaten the United States and its allies, the White House has said and urged countries like China and Russian Federation to do everything they can in terms of sanctions, to help resolve the situation.

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But its arsenal is growing, so too the pace of its tests and its threats to carry out a seventh nuclear test.

Despite North Korea's claim that Sunday's test simulated a re-entry situation, South Korean defense officials say the North probably has yet to master the technology.

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The US ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, said on Sunday that until Mr Kim met the US conditions, "we're not sitting down with him". The rocket may go far and high, but if it can not re-enter the atmosphere, without breaking apart, the missile can not hit its target.

Following that launch, Washington began talks with North Korean ally China on possible new United Nations sanctions.

He added: "More importantly, it may represent a substantial advance to developing an intercontinental ballistic missile".

But the USA still firmly opposes the North's nuclear and ICBM development.

Although outside experts see several places where North Korea is likely stretching the truth, the missile launched Sunday appears to be the most powerful the country has ever tested.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said Monday the North's latest missile test was unsafe, but warned against attempts to "intimidate" Pyongyang. Among the options being studied are additional sanctions targeting North Korea's oil imports, other energy imports, and shipping and exports.

KCNA cited Kim as saying the North would never succumb to what it called the "highly ridiculous" USA strategy of "militarily browbeating only weak countries and nations which have no nukes".

"I want to confirm that we are categorically against the expansion of the club of nuclear powers, including with the Korean peninsula and North Korea", said Putin, who said any such move would be "harmful and dangerous". North Korea has fired off more missiles in the past three years than in the three previous decades combined, reports the Wall Street Journal. "The president said we are leaving open the possibility of dialogue with North Korea, but we should sternly deal with a provocation to prevent North Korea from miscalculating". "Having a missile test is not the way to sit down with the president, because he's absolutely not going to do it".

The United Nations first imposed sanctions against North Korea in 2006. For Pyongyang, this would mean a guarantee that the Kim regime survives and that its nuclear program can continue.

Anne Ball adapted this story with information from VOA News, the Associated Press and Reuters.

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