North Korea says missile launch was to test carrying large nuclear warhead
Missile launch is 1st since new president took office in South Korea, promising warmer ties
North Korea said on Monday it had successfully conducted a newly developed mid-to-long range missile test on Sunday supervised by leader Kim Jong-un and aimed at verifying the capability to carry a "large-scale heavy nuclear warhead."
Kim warned the U.S. should not misjudge the reality that its mainland is in the North's "sighting range for strike," the North's official KCNA news agency reported.
The North fired a ballistic missile that landed in the sea near Russia on Sunday in a launch that Washington called a message to South Korea, days after its new president took office pledging to engage Pyongyang in dialogue.
The missile was launched at the highest angle so as not to affect the security of neighbouring countries and flew 787 kilometres, reaching an altitude of 2,111.5 kilometers, KCNA said.
Not consistent with ICBM
"The test-fire aimed at verifying the tactical and technological specifications of the newly developed ballistic rocket capable of carrying a large-size heavy nuclear warhead," KCNA said.
North Korea is believed to be developing an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) capable of carrying a nuclear warhead and reaching the mainland United States. The U.S. military's Pacific Command said the type of missile that was fired was "not consistent with an intercontinental ballistic missile".
The launch jeopardizes new South Korean President Moon Jae-in's willingness to engage in dialogue with the North, and came as U.S., Japanese and European navies gather for joint war games in the Pacific.
"The president expressed deep regret over the fact that this reckless provocation ... occurred just days after a new government was launched in South Korea," senior presidential secretary Yoon Young-chan said. "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."
Urgent UN consultations
Moon, South Korea's first liberal leader in nearly a decade, said as he took his oath of office last week that he'd be willing to visit the North if the circumstances were right.
The UN Security Council said Sunday it will hold urgent consultations on North Korea's latest ballistic missile test at the
request of the United States, Japan and South Korea. Uruguay holds the council presidency this month and its UN Mission announced that closed consultations will be held on Tuesday afternoon.
U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley said on ABC television's George Stephanopoulos show Sunday that the U.S. has been working well with China, Pyongyang's closest ally, and she raised the possibility of new sanctions against North Korea including on oil imports.
The Security Council has adopted six increasingly tough resolutions against North Korea
Trump message varies
U.S. President Donald Trump's administration has called North Korean ballistic and nuclear efforts unacceptable, but he has swung between threats of military action and offers to talk as it formulates a policy.
While Trump has said he'd be "honoured" to talk with leader Kim Jong Un under favourable conditions, his administration on Sunday seemed to throw cold water on the idea of talks with North Korea.
"Having a missile test is not the way to sit down with the president, because he's absolutely not going to do it," Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, told ABC's This Week.
She said it was time to "send a strong, unified message that this is unacceptable, and I think you'll see the international community do that."
North Korea's past satellite rocket launches have been called clandestine tests of ICBM technology, but it is not believed to have tested a true intercontinental ballistic missile yet.
David Wright, co-director of the Global Security Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists, said the missile could have a range of 4,500 kilometres if flown on a standard, instead of a lofted, trajectory — considerably longer than Pyongyang's current missiles. He said Sunday's launch — the seventh such firing by North Korea this year — may have been of a new mobile, two-stage liquid-fuelled missile North Korea displayed in a huge April 15 military parade.
'Flagrant menace for far too long'
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told reporters that the launch was "absolutely unacceptable" and that Japan would respond resolutely. Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida said he and his South Korean counterpart agreed that "dialogue for dialogue's sake with North Korea is meaningless."
The White House took note of the missile landing close to Russia's Pacific coast and said in a statement that North Korea has been "a flagrant menace for far too long."
The statement said Washington maintains its "ironclad commitment" to stand with its allies in the face of the serious threat posed by North Korea. The latest "provocation" should serve as a call for all nations to implement far stronger sanctions against the North, it said.
Reaction from Whitehouse to latest <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/NorthKorea?src=hash">#NorthKorea</a> missile test sounds like plea for others to act while US figures out a policy <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/CBC?src=hash">#CBC</a> <a href="https://t.co/RybBsFi6UM">pic.twitter.com/RybBsFi6UM</a>—@sasapetricic
Outside militaries and experts will closely analyze what the North fired. While Pyongyang regularly tests shorter-range missiles, it is also working to master the technology needed to field nuclear-tipped missiles that can reach the U.S. mainland. Past North Korean missiles have flown farther than Sunday's test, landing closer to Japan, but this launch follows a series of high-profile failures.
'A serious problem'
Italian Premier Paolo Gentiloni said the G7 summit his country is hosting later this month would discuss how to deal with the risk North Korea's missile launchings pose to global security.
"It's a serious problem for global stability and security, and I'm convinced that the upcoming G7, in friendship, will contribute to resolving this issue," he said in Beijing.
South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement that the missile was fired early Sunday morning from near Kusong, in North Phyongan province.
With files from The Associated Press