Tensions mount after latest North Korean missile test

US vows to take 'all necessary steps' to combat threat as it carries out military drills with South Korea

Benjamin Kentish@BenKentish
Saturday 29 July 2017 18:29
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North Korean missile 'can hit US mainland' says Kim Jong Un

Tensions have mounted over North Korea’s attempts to develop a viable nuclear weapon after it carried out a successful test of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).

Experts said the test suggested the communist state now has a missile capable of carrying a nuclear warhead within reach of major US cities.

In response, the US and South Korea carried out a live-fire missile training exercise in a defiant show of firepower.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, who was present at the latest launch, said the test was a “stern warning” to the US, which he claimed his country was now able to strike “at any place and time”.

In response, Donald Trump re-iterated his promise that the US would take “all necessary steps” to combat the threat from North Korea.

"By threatening the world, these weapons and tests further isolate North Korea, weaken its economy, and deprive its people”, he said.

"The United States will take all necessary steps to ensure the security of the American homeland and protect our allies in the region."

US officials have refused to dismiss the possibility of a military response to North Korea. Earlier in the week, Marine General Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, said he was actively preparing options for military action.

Rex Tillerson, US Secretary of State, said China and Russia were partly to blame for North Korea's activities.

"As the principal economic enablers of North Korea’s nuclear weapon and ballistic missile development program, China and Russia bear unique and special responsibility for this growing threat to regional and global stability,” he said.

Following the latest missile test, Song Young-moo, the South Korean Defence Minister, said his country would speed up the deployment of THAAD anti-missile units given to it by the US.

North Korea - Is the world a step closer to war?

“"This ballistic missile launch by North Korea is a serious provocation that not only clearly violates the UN Security Council’s numerous resolutions but also threatens the safety of the Korean peninsula and world peace," Mr Song said.

"The joint governments of South Korea and the United States will firmly punish North Korea for its missile provocation.”

After chairing a meeting of his country's National Security Council, South Korean President Moon Jae-in calls on the United Nations (UN) Security Council to impose stronger actions on North Korea.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres condemned the launch of a "ballistic missile of possible intercontinental range".

The latest missile test took place shortly before midnight on Friday night. Fired from Jangang province in northern North Korea, it flew for more than 620 miles and reached an altitude of 2,300 miles before landing in the sea in Japan’s exclusive economic area, South Korean officials said.

The Pentagon confirmed it believed the missile was an ICBM. US officials believe North Korea will be able to fire a reliable, nuclear-capable ICBM by next year.

In contrast to other reports, a Russian Defence Ministry official said Moscow's data suggested the launch was only of a medium-range ballistic missile, according to Russian news agency Tass, China and Russia are reported to only see a long-range missile test or nuclear weapon test as reasons for further UN sanctions.

While some experts said the missile used in the latest test would have been able to hit cities on the west coast of the US, such as Los Angeles, others said it could have travelled as far as Denver or Chicago.

The US has a complex system of defences against ICBM missiles, including anti-missile units based in California and Alaska. In May the system, successfully shot down an incoming ICBM during a test.

Additional reporting by agencies.

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