North Korea Says Missile It Tested Can Carry Nuclear Warhead


People watch a television showing a graphic of a North Korean missile launch at at railway station in Seoul on Sunday.© Agence France-Presse — Getty Images People watch a television showing a graphic of a North Korean missile launch at at railway station in Seoul on Sunday.  

SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea said on Monday that the missile it launched a day earlier was a new ballistic missile that can carry a large, heavy nuclear warhead, warning that the United States’ military bases in the Pacific were within its range.

North Korea launched what American officials called an intermediate-range ballistic missile on Sunday from the northwestern town of Kusong. The missile, believed to have a longer range than any other North Korean missile tested so far, landed in the sea between the North and Japan, sparking angry comments from President Trump, as well as from President Moon Jae-in of South Korea and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan.

The North’s official Korean Central News Agency said on Monday that the new ground-to-ground missile, Hwasong-12, hit the targeted open water 489 miles away after soaring to an altitude of 1,312 miles. The missile was launched at a deliberately high angle so it would not fall too close to a neighboring country, the news agency said.

The flight data announced by the North roughly matched that released by Japanese and South Korean officials hours after the launch.

David Wright, a director of the Global Security Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists, wrote in a blog post that if the same missile was flown on a standard trajectory, it would have a maximum range of 2,800 miles.

That would qualify the projectile as an intermediate-range ballistic missile, which could fly far enough to target key American military bases in the Pacific, including those in Guam. The North on Monday used the unfamiliar term “medium-long range” to describe the missile.

The missile test was conducted to verify “the tactical and technological specifications of the newly developed ballistic rocket capable of carrying a large-size, heavy nuclear warhead,” the state news agency said, adding that the North’s leader, Kim Jong-un, watched the launch.

“He declared that the D.P.R.K. is a nuclear power worthy of the name whether someone recognizes it or not,” said the agency, using the acronym of the North’s official name, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

If the United States provokes North Korea, Mr. Kim said, it will not escape “the biggest disaster in history” because “its mainland and Pacific operation region are in the D.P.R.K.’s sighting range for strike,” according to the news agency.

“The coward American-style fanfaronade militarily browbeating only weak countries and nations which have no nukes can never work on the D.P.R.K., and is highly ridiculous,” Mr. Kim said, without naming Mr. Trump. “If the U.S. dares opt for a military provocation against the D.P.R.K., we are ready to counter it.”

Although North Korea has vowed to develop the ability to attack the United States with nuclear warheads and has tested missiles that can reach throughout the Korean Peninsula and its vicinity, it has never tested a long-range missile that could fly across the Pacific. Missile experts say North Korea may still be years away from mastering the technologies needed to build a reliable intercontinental ballistic missile, although Mr. Kim warned in his New Year’s Day speech that his country had reached a “final stage” in preparing to conduct its first ICBM test.

The new missile “may represent a substantial advance to developing” an ICBM, said John Schilling, a missile expert, in an analysis posted on 38 North, a United States-based website that specializes in North Korea.

“This missile would allow North Korea to conduct at least some of the testing necessary to develop an operational ICBM, without actually launching ICBMs, particularly if it includes the same rocket engines,” Mr. Schilling said.

Under a series of United Nations Security Council resolutions, the country is banned from developing or testing ballistic missiles.

The North’s launch took place as its biggest supporter, China, was hosting delegations from around the world at its “One Belt One Road” forum in Beijing. It also came only days after Mr. Moon, the South Korean leader, took office with a call for dialogue with the North.

Analysts say North Korea has often raised tensions to test new leaders in Washington or in Seoul or to increase its leverage when its foes propose negotiations.                              (The New York Times)

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