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North Korea missile launch - live updates: Kim Jong-un regime holds wild celebrations after firing ICBM towards Japan

Hermit state fires highest missile it has ever launched

Samuel Osborne
Wednesday 29 November 2017 10:45
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North Korea announces test of new long-range missile

After two months of relative quiet North Korea ahas launched its most powerful intercontinental ballistic missile, claiming it puts the entire US mainland in range of its nuclear weapons.

The latest test, which was the highest and longest any North Korean missile had flown, came a week after Donald Trump put North Korea back on a US list of countries it says support terrorism, allowing it to impose more sanctions.

In a government statement released through state media, North Korea said the Hwasong-15 (Mars-15), the "greatest ICBM," could be armed with a "super-large heavy nuclear warhead" and reached a height of 4,475km (2,780 miles), travelling 950km (590 miles) before accurately hitting a sea target near Japan, similar to the flight data announced by South Korea's military.

"After watching the successful launch of the new type ICBM Hwasong-15, Kim Jong-un declared with pride that now we have finally realized the great historic cause of completing the state nuclear force, the cause of building a rocket power," according to a statement read by a television presenter.

North Korea described itself as a "responsible nuclear power", saying its strategic weapons were developed to defend itself from "the US imperialists' nuclear blackmail policy and nuclear threat".

South Korea responded almost immediately by launching three of its own missiles in a show of force.

Moon Jae-in, the South's President, expressed his worry the North's missile threat could force the United States to attack before it masters a nuclear-tipped long-range missile.

"If North Korea completes a ballistic missile that could reach from one continent to another, the situation can spiral out of control," Mr Moon said at an emergency meeting in Seoul, according to his office. "We must stop a situation where North Korea miscalculates and threatens us with nuclear weapons or where the United States considers a pre-emptive strike."

Donald Trump says 'we will take care of it' after North Korea fires missile

In response to the launch, Mr Trump said the United States will "take care of it." The US President told reporters: "It is a situation that we will handle." He did not elaborate.

The UN Security Council scheduled an emergency meeting for Wednesday afternoon at the request of Japan, the US and South Korea.

Additional reporting by agencies

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Welcome to The Independent's live blog on the latest updates following North Korea's missile test.

Samuel Osborne29 November 2017 09:51
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Samuel Osborne29 November 2017 09:51
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Moon Jae-in, the President of South Korea, has spoken with Shinzo Abe, Japan's Prime Minister, over North Korea's latest test.

They have pledged joint efforts to strengthen sanctions and pressure on Pyongyang over its nuclear ambitions. 

Samuel Osborne29 November 2017 10:18
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China's foreign ministry said the country is "seriously concerned about and opposed to" North Korea's latest missile test.

Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said China "strongly urges" the North to abide by Security Council resolutions and cease actions that might escalate tensions.

Mr Geng said all concerned parties should "act with caution and jointly safeguard regional peace and stability".

China is North Korea's only significant ally and biggest source of trade and aid, but has backed increasingly harsh UN Security Council resolutions in hopes of convincing Pyongyang to return to talks.

Samuel Osborne29 November 2017 10:31
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Here are some stats on North Korea's latest ICBM test from Reuters:

The missile, the first test in 75 days, was fired on a steep trajectory and flew for 53 minutes, North Korea said.

It reached an altitude of 4,475km (2,780 miles) and flew 950km (590 miles), according to the North.

"If [today's] numbers are correct, then if flown on a standard trajectory rather than this lofted trajectory, this missile would have a range of more than 13,000km (8,100 miles)," the US-based Union of Concerned Scientists said in a statement.

That would suggest all of the continental United States including, Washington DC and New York, could be theoretically within range of a North Korean missile.

Samuel Osborne29 November 2017 10:46
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Also from Reuters, some more information on where and when the missile was launched:

North Korea launched the missile from Pyongsong, South Pyongan Province, about 30km (18 miles) north of its capital, Pyongyang, the first time a missile was fired from this location.

Unlike many other tests that historically occur in the early mornings, the launch occurred in the middle of the night in Korea, at around 2:28am North Korea's local time (6:17pm GMT).

The location and timing are likely a reflection of Pyongyang's continuing efforts to test weapons from anywhere and at any time, providing more realistic tests and making it more difficult for other countries to predict and possibly intercept a launch.

"The test is unusual in that it was conducted in the dead of night, perhaps reflecting North Korean concerns about avoiding a U.S. ballistic missile defence intercept," the US-based Centre for Strategic and International Studies said.

The previous two ICBM tests in July were launched from Panghyon airfield in North Pyongan Province, and in Mupyong-ni, Chagang Province, respectively.

Other, shorter range missiles have been launched from a variety of locations as well, including at least two intermediate-range ballistic missiles that flew over Japanese airspace in August and September.

The last of those missiles was launched at Sunan, just north of Pyongyang, from a "transporter erector launcher," a road-mobile vehicle that can make it more difficult to track and target missiles before they are launched.

Samuel Osborne29 November 2017 10:52
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Russia says North Korea's latest missile test is a provocation that has hurt the chances for settling the ongoing crisis.

President Vladimir Putin's spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, voiced hope today that all parties involved would "maintain the calm needed to prevent the situation on the Korean Peninsula from developing along the worst scenario."

Mr Peskov condemned the North's missile test as a "provocative action that foments tensions and puts off the launch of efforts to settle the crisis situation." He added that "there is no reason for optimism." 

The test took place just as a Russian parliamentary delegation was visiting Pyongyang.

Leonid Slutsky, the head of the lower house's international affairs committee, said its members were conveying Moscow's concern and trying to encourage the North to "stop the destructive escalation of tensions." 

Samuel Osborne29 November 2017 11:08
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Germany's Foreign Minister, Sigmar Gabriel, has also sharply condemned North Korea's latest missile test. 

In a statement, Mr Gabriel said "the ruthless behavior of North Korea is an enormous threat for international security." 

He said "the regime in Pyongyang has again escalated tensions in the region with its latest test." 

Mr Gabriel added that the missile launch was "proof what a threat North Korea poses for world peace." 

Samuel Osborne29 November 2017 11:24
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North Korean state media reports that Kim Jong Un personally guided the missile during the test and later described the new launcher as "impeccable". The dictator reportedly said the development of the new vehicle from which the rocket was launched was a "breakthrough" for his country.

Some experts have questioned whether North Korea has the technology needed to create a missile that can withstand the pressure of re-entering the Earth's atmosphere. However, the country's state-controlled media said the test had confirmed "the safety of a warhead in the atmospheric re-entry environment".

Kristin Hugo29 November 2017 12:41
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Global stocks rose today, despite the latest launch of a ballistic missile by North Korea.

Samuel Osborne29 November 2017 13:33

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