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Kim Jong Un says missile test is a Guam prelude

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North Korea says it conducted a test of an intermediate-range ballistic missile over Japan to counter US and South Korean military drills, and as a first step in military action in the Pacific to “contain” the US territory of Guam.

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The North’s leader Kim Jong Un ordered the missile drill to be conducted for the first time from its capital, Pyongyang, and said it was necessary to undertake more exercises with the Pacific as the target, the North’s KCNA news agency said.

“The current ballistic rocket launching drill like a real war is the first step of the military operation of the KPA in the Pacific and a meaningful prelude to containing Guam,” KCNA quoted Kim as saying.

The Korean People’s Army or KPA is the North’s military.

Earlier this month, North Korea threatened to fire four missiles into the sea near Guam, home to a major military presence, after US President Donald Trump said the North would face “fire and fury” if it threatened the United States.

Tuesday’s test was of the same Hwasong-12 missile Kim had threatened to use on Guam, but the test flight took it another direction, over northern Japan’s Hokkaido and into the North Pacific Ocean.

Trump, who has vowed not to let North Korea develop nuclear missiles that can hit the mainland United States, said the world had received North Korea’s latest message “loud and clear”.

“Threatening and destabilising actions only increase the North Korean regime’s isolation in the region and among all nations of the world. All options are on the table,” Trump said in a statement on Tuesday.

The launch came as US and South Korean forces conducted annual military exercises on the Korean peninsula, angering Pyongyang which sees the war games as a preparation for invasion.

North Korea has conducted dozens of ballistic missile tests under Kim in defiance of UN sanctions, but firing a projectile over mainland Japan was a rare and provocative move.

Reports of the launch by North Korean media were lacking the usual boasts of technical advances, indicating the test may not have accomplished its intended technical goals.

The 2700km the missile flew before splashing down was much shorter and at a lower trajectory than that of an earlier and lofted launch of the same missile.

The May launch would have had a range of about 4800 km on a standard trajectory, an expert on missile technology, David Wright said.

“It is not clear what new North Korea would have learned from this launch that is relevant to a long-range missile,” Wright of the Union of Concerned Scientists said.

Japan reacted sharply to the missile overflight, warnings residents to take cover as the missile approached and raising protests at the United Nations.

The United States has said before that all options, including military, are on the table, although its preference is for a diplomatic solution.

The UN Security Council strongly condemned North Korea’s actions, reiterating demands for Pyongyang to halt its ballistic missile and nuclear weapons programs.

The UN’s most powerful body approved the statement after an emergency meeting on the missile test, calling North Korea’s actions “outrageous”.

The missile flight came less than a month after the council imposed its toughest-yet sanctions on North Korea.

The statement doesn’t discuss any potential new sanctions but calls for strict implementation of existing ones.

“The Security Council, resolute in its commitment to a denuclearised Korean Peninsula, emphasises the vital importance of immediate, concrete actions by the DPRK to reduce tensions in the Korean Peninsula and beyond,” the council said.

The council also said it was committed to a peaceful, diplomatic and political solution to the situation.

“This demonstrates the unity of the security council and sends a strong message to North Korea that the international community will not accept (its behaviour),” Japanese Ambassador Koro Bessho said as the closed-door discussion evolved into an open meeting.

– Reuters

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