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North Korea Fires Missile That Lands In Sea Between South Korea And Japan

 

By CHOE SANG-HUN
Kim Jong-un, North Korea’s leader, on Sunday.© Korean Central News Agency, via Agence France-Presse — Getty Images Kim Jong-un, North Korea’s leader, on Sunday.
SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea launched a ballistic missile on Monday that flew 280 miles and appears to have landed inside Japan’s economic zone where fishing and cargo ships are active, the South Korean military and the Japanese government said.

President Moon Jae-in of South Korea called a meeting of his top security officials for later Monday morning to discuss the missile launch, coming a week after the North last tested a ballistic missile, and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan condemned the launch as a provocation.

“We absolutely cannot accept North Korea’s repeated provocations despite repeated warnings by the international community,” Mr. Abe said Monday morning. He added that leaders at the recent Group of 7 meeting in Taormina, Sicily, had confirmed that deterring North Korea’s nuclear ambitions was a “top priority” and that Japan would work closely with the United States and South Korea to “make the utmost efforts to ensure people’s safety.”

The missile fired on Monday appears to have landed in the sea between Korea and Japan, inside Japan’s so-called exclusive economic zone, which extends 200 nautical miles from the coast. There were no immediate reports of damage to any ships or aircraft in the area, said Yoshihide Suga, Mr. Abe’s chief cabinet secretary.

The missile was fired from Wonsan, on North Korea’s east coast, and flew for 280 miles, the South Korean military said in a statement. The United States Pacific Command said in its own statement that the short-range ballistic missile was tracked from North Korea for six minutes before it landed in the sea. It was the seventh time the North has tested a ballistic missile in two months.

In March, when North Korea launched four missiles at once, three of them landed within Japan’s economic zone. Those launches raised concerns that the North Korean government, led by Kim Jong-un, had developed the ability to pose a greater threat to its neighbors and potentially overwhelm missile defense systems.

The United States has been planning to conduct a test Tuesday of the Pentagon’s multibillion-dollar missile defense system designed to intercept a North Korean warhead. The United States has struggled to make the antimissile system work for decades.

North Korea has deployed a fleet of short- and medium-range missiles, despite a series of United Nations Security Council resolutions prohibiting Pyongyang from testing ballistic missiles.

The missile launched on Monday was different than the Pukguksong-2 missile tested last week, a midrange ballistic missile that South Korean officials have said cannot fly far enough to reach American military bases in Guam.

Still, the Pukguksong-2, first tested in February, represents key strides in the North’s missile technologies. It is fired from a mobile launch vehicle. And unlike the missile fired on Monday, it uses solid fuel, rather than liquid, which means it can be prepared ahead of time in secret and fired quickly, making it difficult for the North’s enemies to detect an attack.

North Korea, which said it would start mass-producing the Pukguksong-2, has been known to test missiles to improve their accuracy and efficiency, and when the government comes under growing international pressure.

Over the weekend, the G-7 leaders issued a statement saying the North Korean government “increasingly poses new levels of threat of a grave nature to international peace and stability.” The statement also called on Pyongyang to give up its nuclear and ballistic missile programs in a manner that would be “complete, verifiable and irreversible.”

On Monday, the South Korean military said it was closely monitoring North Korea “for signs of additional provocations.” (The New York Times)

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North Korea Says Missile Tests Warhead Guidance, Ready For Deployment

 

By Ju-min Park and Jack Kim
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un smiles as he watches a firing contest of anti-aircraft artillery personnel in this photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang: Kim Jong Un smiles as he watches a firing contest of anti-aircraft artillery personnel in this photo released June 18, 2015.© REUTERS/KCNA Kim Jong Un smiles as he watches a firing contest of anti-aircraft artillery personnel in this photo released June 18, 2015.  

SEOUL, May 22 (Reuters) – North Korea said on Monday it has successfully tested an intermediate-range ballistic missile to confirm the reliability of the late-stage guidance of the nuclear warhead, indicating further advances in the ability to hit U.S. targets.

The North‘s KCNA news agency said leader Kim Jong Un supervised the test which also verified the functioning of the solid-fuel engine for the Pukguksong-2 missile and ordered it for deployment in field action.

North Korea has defied all calls to rein in its nuclear and missile programs, even from China, its lone major ally, saying the weapons are needed for legitimate self-defense. The North last conducted a ballistic missile test a week ago.

“Saying with pride that the missile’s rate of hits is very accurate and Pukguksong-2 is a successful strategic weapon, he approved the deployment of this weapon system for action,” KCNA said, quoting leader Kim Jong Un.

The launch verified the reliability and accuracy of the solid-fuel engine’s operation and stage separation and the late-stage guidance of the nuclear warhead which was recorded by a device mounted on the warhead, KCNA said.

Related: North Korea Fires Another Missile Into Waters Off East Coast – Japan, S. Korea

“Viewing the images of the Earth being sent real-time from the camera mounted on the ballistic missile, Supreme leader Kim Jong Un said it feels grand to look at the Earth from the rocket we launched and the entire world looks so beautiful,” KCNA said.

The missile flew about 500 kilometers (310.69 miles), reaching an altitude of 560 km, and landed in waters off the North‘s east coast, South Korea‘s military said on Sunday.

The reclusive state has been working to develop a nuclear-tipped missile capable of striking the U.S. mainland. On Saturday, it said it had developed the capability to strike the U.S. mainland, although Western missile experts say the claim is exaggerated.

On Monday, KCNA said the latest test follows the successful test last week of another missile that has put Hawaii and Alaska within range.

Experts say solid fuel engines and mobile launchers make it more difficult to detect signs of launch preparations.

Related: North Test Fires Missiles Days After New S.Korea Leader Pledges Dialogue

“For military purposes, solid-fueled missiles have the advantage that they have the fuel loaded in them and can be launched quickly after they are moved to a launch site,” David Wright, co-director of the Global Security Program at the U.S.-based Union of Concerned Scientists, said in a blog post.

“Building large solid missiles is difficult,” he said, adding it took decades for major superpowers such as France and China to go from a medium-range missile to an intercontinental ballistic missile.

“So this is not something that will happen soon, but with time North Korea will be able to do it,” Wright said.

An official traveling with U.S. President Donald Trump in Saudi Arabia said the White House was aware of the latest launch and noted that the missile had a shorter range than the three previous missiles that North Korea had tested.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said economic and diplomatic pressure would continue to be applied to North Korea.

Related: North Korea Says Missile It Tested Can Carry Nuclear Warhead

The two missile tests in a week complicate plans by South Korea‘s new President Moon Jae-in to seek ways to reduce tension on the peninsula.

Moon took office on May 10 after winning an election on a platform of a more moderate approach to the North, with which the South is still technically at war since no peace treaty was signed at the end of their 1950-1953 conflict.  (REUTERS)

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North Korea Fires Another Missile Into Waters Off East Coast – Japan, S. Korea

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un smiles as he watches a firing contest of anti-aircraft artillery personnel in this photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang: Kim Jong Un smiles as he watches a firing contest of anti-aircraft artillery personnel in this photo released June 18, 2015.© REUTERS/KCNA Kim Jong Un smiles as he watches a firing contest of anti-aircraft artillery personnel in this photo released June 18, 2015.

 

SEOUL, May 21 (Reuters) – North Korea fired a ballistic missile into waters off its east coast on Sunday, South Korea and Japan said, a week after it tested an intermediate-range missile which experts saw as an advancement in the reclusive state’s weapons programme.

The missile was launched at 0759 GMT from a location near Pukchang, 60 km (36 miles) northeast of the capital Pyongyang, an area where North Korea attempted to test-launch another missile last month but failed, South Korea’s Office of Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement.

The missile flew about 500 km (310 miles), it said. Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said the missile landed outside Japan’s exclusive economic zone and no damage to ships or airplanes was reported.

An official travelling with U.S. President Donald Trump in Saudi Arabia said the White House was aware of the launch and noted that the missile had a shorter range than the three previous tested by North Korea.

China had no immediate comment while both South Korea and Japan called emergency meetings of top officials.

“The flight range was 500 km and South Korea and the United States are closely analysing additional information,” South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said.

It was the second missile test by North Korea since South Korean President Moon Jae-in took office 11 days ago. The two sides remain technically at war despite a truce ending their 1950-1953 conflict.

Last Sunday, the North tested-fired an intermediate range missile that flew further and higher than those previously tested.

Moon won this month’s election on a platform of a moderate approach to North Korea and has said he would be willing to go to Pyongyang under the right circumstances, arguing dialogue must be used in parallel with sanctions.

North Korea has defied all calls to rein in its nuclear and missile programmes, even from China, its lone major ally, calling them legitimate self-defence.

It has been working to develop a nuclear-tipped missile capable of striking the U.S. mainland.

On Saturday, it said it had developed the capability to strike the U.S. mainland, although Western missile experts say the claim is exaggerated.

“The U.S. mainland and the Pacific operational theatre are within the strike range of the DPRK and the DPRK has all kinds of powerful means for annihilating retaliatory strike,” North Korea’s state KCNA news agency said in a commentary on Saturday.

North Korea’s official name is the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK).

(Additional reporting by Tetsushi Kajimoto and Tim Kelly in Tokyo, Jeff Mason in Riyadh; Writing by Raju Gopalakrishnan; Editing by Stephen Coates)    (REUTERS)

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N. Korea Missile Detected By THAAD, Programme Progressing Faster Than Expected – South

 

Christine Kim and Tom Miles
North Korea's new leader Kim Jong Un (2nd L) salutes as he and his uncle Jang Song Thaek (L) accompany the hearse carrying the coffin of late North Korean leader Kim Jong Il during his funeral procession in Pyongyang in this file photo taken by Kyodo December 28, 2011. North Korea said on December 13, 2013 that Jang, previously considered the second most powerful man in the secretive state, has been executed for treason, the biggest upheaval since the death of Kim's father two years ago.© Kyodo/Reuters North Korea’s new leader Kim Jong Un (2nd L) salutes as he and his uncle Jang Song Thaek (L) accompany the hearse carrying the coffin of late North Korean leader Kim Jong Il during his funeral procession in Pyongya  

North Korea’s missile programme is progressing faster than expected, South Korea’s defence minister said on Tuesday, after the UN Security Council demanded the North halt all nuclear and ballistic missile tests and condemned Sunday’s test-launch.

Han Min-koo told South Korea’s parliament the test-launch had been detected by the controversial U.S. THAAD anti-missile system, whose deployment in the South has infuriated China.

The reclusive North, which has defied all calls to rein in its weapons programmes, even from its lone major ally, China, said the missile test was a legitimate defence against U.S. hostility.

The North has been working on a missile, mounted with a nuclear warhead, capable of striking the U.S. mainland.

U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration has called for an immediate halt to Pyongyang’s provocations and has warned that the “era of strategic patience” with North Korea is over. U.S. Disarmament Ambassador Robert Wood said on Tuesday China’s leverage was key and it could do more.

Han said Sunday’s test-launch was “successful in flight”.

“It is considered an IRBM (intermediate range ballistic missile) of enhanced calibre compared to Musudan missiles that have continually failed,” he said, referring to a class of missile designed to travel up to 3,000 to 4,000 km (1,860 to 2,485 miles).

Asked if North Korea’s missile programme was developing faster than the South had expected, he said: “Yes.”

Han said the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) anti-missile unit deployed by the U.S. military in the South detected the North Korean missile, marking the first time the controversial system has been put to use since its deployment last month.

China has strongly opposed THAAD, whose radar it fears could be used to spy into its territory, despite assurances from Washington that THAAD is purely defensive. South Korean companies, from automakers to retailers and cosmetics firms, have been hit in China by a nationalist backlash over Seoul’s decision to deploy the system.

The North’s KCNA news agency said Sunday’s launch tested its capability to carry a “large-size heavy nuclear warhead”. Its ambassador to China said in Beijing on Monday it would continue such test launches “any time, any place”.

The test-launch was a legitimate act of self-defence and U.S. criticism was a “wanton violation of the sovereignty and dignity of the DPRK”, a North Korean diplomat told the U.N. Conference on Disarmament in Geneva on Tuesday.

DPRK are the initials of North Korea’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

“The DPRK will bolster its self-defence capabilities as long as the United States continues its hostile policies towards the DPRK and imposes nuclear threats and makes blackmail,” diplomat Ju Yong Choi said.

The missile flew 787 km (489 miles) on a trajectory reaching an altitude of 2,111.5 km (1,312 miles), KCNA said.

Pyongyang has regularly threatened to destroy the United States, which it accuses of pushing the Korean peninsula to the brink of nuclear war by conducting recent military drills with South Korea and Japan.

Trump and new South Korean President Moon Jae-in will meet in Washington next month, with North Korea expected to be high on the agenda, the South’s presidential Blue House said.

Moon met Matt Pottinger, overseeing Asian affairs at the U.S. National Security Council, on Tuesday and said he hoped to continue to have “sufficient, close discussions” between Seoul and Washington, the Blue House press secretary told a briefing.

“FURTHER SANCTIONS POSSIBLE”

In a unanimous statement, the 15-member UN Security Council on Monday said it was of vital importance that North Korea show “sincere commitment to denuclearization through concrete action and stressed the importance of working to reduce tensions”.

“To that end, the Security Council demanded the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea conduct no further nuclear and ballistic missile tests,” the council said, adding that it was ready to impose further sanctions on the country.

The North’s foreign ministry rejected the statement, saying it infringed on its right to self-defence, particularly as the missile was test-launched at a sharp angle to ensure safety of neighbouring countries.

The UN statement also condemned an April 28 ballistic missile launch by Pyongyang.

Following that launch, Washington began talks with China on possible new U.N. sanctions. Traditionally, the United States and China have negotiated new measures before involving remaining council members.

The United States sees China as key, U.S. Disarmament Ambassador Wood told reporters on a conference call.

“I’m not going to talk about various policy options that we may or may not consider, but I will say this: we are certainly engaged right now in looking at a number of measures – political, economic, security – to deal with these provocative acts by the DPRK, and dangerous acts in many cases,” he said.

“So we are going to be raising the level of engagement with China on this issue. China really is the key in dealing with the North Korea issue. Ninety percent of the DPRK’s trade is with China, so clearly there is a lot more leverage that China has, and we would like China to use.”

The Security Council first imposed sanctions on North Korea in 2006 and has stiffened them in response to its five nuclear tests and two long-range rocket launches. Pyongyang is threatening a sixth nuclear test.

Trump warned in an interview with Reuters this month that a “major, major conflict” with North Korea was possible. In a show of force, the United States sent an aircraft carrier strike group, led by the Carl Vinson, to waters off the Korean peninsula to conduct drills with South Korea and Japan.

Admiral Harry Harris, the top U.S. commander in the Asia-Pacific, said continued missile launches by North Korea showed the importance of the alliance between Japan and the United States and called the North’s actions unacceptable.

Harris met Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who also said China could apply more pressure to rein in North Korea.

“Now is the time to put pressure on North Korea,” Abe said. “Japan and the United States must coordinate and put pressure.”

The U.S. Seventh Fleet carrier, the Ronald Reagan, left Yokosuka in Japan on Tuesday on its regular spring patrol and will be out for around three to four months, a Seventh Fleet spokesman said.

Besides worries about North Korea’s missile and nuclear weapons programmes, cyber security researchers have found technical evidence they said could link the North with the global WannaCry “ransomware” cyber attack that has infected more than 300,000 computers in 150 countries since Friday.                (REUTERS)

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Ransomware Virus Attacks, Clues Point To Frequent Culprit: North Korea

 

By NICOLE PERLROTH and DAVID E. SANGER
Adm. Michael S. Rogers, director of the National Security Agency, during a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing last week.© Al Drago/The New York Times Adm. Michael S. Rogers, director of the National Security Agency, during a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing last week.  

SAN FRANCISCO — Intelligence officials and private security experts say that new digital clues point to North Korean-linked hackers as likely suspects in the sweeping ransomware attacks that have crippled computer systems around the world.

The indicators are far from conclusive, the researchers warned, and it could be weeks, if not months, before investigators are confident enough in their findings to officially point the finger at Pyongyang’s increasingly bold corps of digital hackers. The attackers based their weapon on vulnerabilities that were stolen from the National Security Agency and published last month.

Security experts at Symantec, which in the past has accurately identified attacks mounted by the United States, Israel and North Korea, found early versions of the ransomware, called WannaCry, that used tools that were also deployed against Sony Pictures Entertainment, a Bangladesh Central Bank last year and Polish banks in February. American officials said Monday that they had seen the same similarities.

All of those attacks were ultimately linked to North Korea; President Barack Obama formally charged the North in late 2014 with destroying computers at Sony in retaliation for a comedy, “The Interview,” that envisioned a C.I.A. plot to kill Kim Jong-un, the country’s president.

The computer code used in the ransomware bore some striking similarities to the code used in those three attacks. That code has not been widely used, and has been seen only in attacks by North Korean-linked hackers. Researchers at Google and Kaspersky, a Moscow-based cybersecurity firm, confirmed the coding similarities.

Those clues alone are not definitive, however. Hackers often borrow and retrofit one another’s attack methods, and government agencies are known to plant “false flags” in their code to throw off forensic investigators.

“At this time, all we have is a temporal link,” said Eric Chien, an investigator at Symantec who was among the first to identify the Stuxnet worm, the American- and Israeli-led attacks on Iran’s nuclear program, and North Korea’s effort to steal millions from the Bangladeshi bank. “We want to see more coding similarities,’’ he said, “to give us more confidence.’’

The new leads about the source of the attacks came as technology executives d raised an alarm about another feature of the attacks: They were based on vulnerabilities in Microsoft systems that were found by the N.S.A. and apparently stolen from it.

In a blog post on Microsoft’s website over the weekend, Brad Smith, the company’s president, asked what would happen if the United States military lost control of “some of its Tomahawk missiles” and discovered that a criminal group was using them to threaten a damaging strike. It was a potent analogy, and an unusually public airing of the newest split in the Silicon Valley-Washington divide.

Over the past few months, it has become clear that the intelligence community’s version of Tomahawks — the “vulnerabilities” the N.S.A. and C.I.A. have spent billions of dollars to develop to break into foreign computers and foil Iranian nuclear programs or North Korean missiles — are being turned against everyday computer users around the world.

“We have seen vulnerabilities stored by the C.I.A. show up on WikiLeaks,” Mr. Smith wrote, “and now this vulnerability stolen from the N.S.A. has affected customers around the world.”

Brad Smith, Microsoft’s president, in December. His blog post on Sunday explored some of the United States’ vulnerabilities.© Stephen Brashear/Getty Images Brad Smith, Microsoft’s president, in December.

 

His blog post on Sunday explored some of the United States’ vulnerabilities. The N.S.A.’s tools were published last month by a hacking group calling itself The Shadow Brokers, which enabled hackers to bake them into their ransomware, which then spread rapidly through unpatched Microsoft computers, locking up everything in its wake.

There is no evidence that the North Koreans were involved in the actual theft of the N.S.A. hacking tools. There are many theories, but the favorite hypothesis among intelligence officials is that an insider, probably a contractor, stole the information, much as Edward J. Snowden lifted a different trove of information from the N.S.A. four years ago.

But hackers quickly seized on the published vulnerabilities to wreak havoc on computer systems that were not “patched’’ in recent months, after the N.S.A. quietly told Microsoft about the flaw in their systems. The damage wreaked in recent days could well escalate into the billions of dollars, security experts say, particularly now that any criminal, terrorist, or nation state has the ability to tease the tools apart and retrofit them into their own hacking tools.

Not surprisingly, government officials say it is not entirely their fault. They will not confirm or deny what Mr. Smith says outright: That these “vulnerabilities” come out of America’s growing cyberarsenal. At a news conference at the White House on Monday, Thomas Bossert, President Trump’s Homeland Security adviser, told reporters, “This was not an exploit developed by the N.S.A. to hold organizations ransom,” he said. “This was a vulnerability exploit that was part of a much larger tool put together by the culpable parties.”

“The provenance of the underlying vulnerability is not of as much concern to me,” Mr. Bossert said, stepping around the delicate question of the N.S.A.’s role.

The weapons used in the attacks that started Friday, government officials insist, were cobbled together from many sources. And the fault, they argue, lies with whoever turned them into weapons — or maybe with Microsoft itself, for not having a system in place to make sure that when they issue a patch that neutralizes such attacks, everyone around the world takes the time to fix their systems. Or with the victims, who failed to run their security updates made available two months ago, or who continue to use so-called “legacy” software that Microsoft no longer supports.

When asked about the source of the attack, Mr. Bossert said on Monday, “We don’t know.’’ He told reporters at the White House. “Attribution can be difficult. I don’t want to say we have no clues. But I stand assured that the best and brightest are working on this hack.”

As Mr. Bossert was speaking to reporters, yet another N.S.A. hacking tool, very similar to the one used in the weekend’s ransomware attacks, was being retrofitted by cybercriminals and put up for sale on the underground dark web. In private hacking forums, cybercriminals were discussing how to develop more than a dozen other N.S.A. hacking tools for criminal use.

Another round of attacks using the N.S.A. tools could well affect another big issue that the Obama administration debated and never resolved when it left office: whether the government can demand that all companies assure that investigators can “unlock” encrypted communications. Before he was fired last week, James B. Comey, the F.B.I. director, often complained that the government was “going dark,” and that intelligence agencies and local police needed a way to crack the encrypted mobile conversations of terrorists or kidnappers.

But the N.S.A.’s loss of its own hacking tools has undercut that argument, executives say. If the N.S.A. and the C.I.A. cannot keep their hacking tools locked up, companies like Apple are asking, why should Americans trust them with the keys to unlock every private communication and bank transfer? Won’t those leak, too, meaning that hackers, blackmailers and thieves will all have access to everyone’s private email, health records and financial transactions?

Nine years ago, the White House created a process for deciding what unpatched holes to disclose to manufacturers like Microsoft and its competitors, and which to keep in its arsenal.

That process was refined by Mr. Obama and in 2015, Adm. Michael Rogers, the director of the NSA, said the agency had shared 91 percent of the zero-days it had discovered that year. A zero-day is a previously undisclosed flaw that leaves computer users with zero days to fix the vulnerability.

But, Michael Daniel, the White House cybercoordinator in the Obama administration, noted, “We still don’t have a good rating system for vulnerabilities in terms of their severity. Not all zero-days are created equal,” he said.

The N.S.A.’s wormlike tool was leaked online by the Shadow Brokers last month.

“What happened with the Shadow Brokers in this case is equivalent to a nuclear bomb in cyberspace,” said Zohar Pinhasi, a former cybersecurity intelligence officer for the Israeli military, now the chief executive of MonsterCloud, which helps mitigate ransomware attacks. “This is what happens when you give a tiny little criminal a weapon of mass destruction. This will only go bigger. It’s only the tip of the iceberg.”                   (The New York Times)

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North Korea Says Missile It Tested Can Carry Nuclear Warhead

 

By CHOE SANG-HUN
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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North Test Fires Missiles Days After New S.Korea Leader Pledges Dialogue

Jack Kim and Ju-min Park

FILE - In this Saturday, April 15, 2017, file photo, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un waves during a military parade to celebrate the 105th birth anniversary of Kim Il Sung in Pyongyang, North Korea.© Wong Maye-E, File/ AP Photo FILE – In this Saturday, April 15, 2017, file photo,
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un waves during a military parade to celebrate the 105th birth anniversary of Kim Il Sung in Pyongyang, North Korea. North Korea fired a ballistic missile early on Sunday that flew 700 kilometers (430 miles), South Korea’s military said, days after a new leader took office in the South pledging to engage in dialog with Pyongyang.

The missile was fired from the region of Kusong, northwest of Pyongyang, where the North in February successfully test-launched an intermediate-range missile that it is believed to be developing.

Japan said the latest missile reached an altitude of more than 2,000 km (1,245 miles) and flew for 30 minutes before dropping into the sea between North Korea’s east coast and Japan. The North has consistently test-fired missiles in that direction.

Sunday’s launch, at 5:27 a.m. Seoul time (2027 GMT Saturday), came two weeks after North Korea fired a missile that disintegrated minutes into flight, marking its fourth consecutive failure since March.

The U.S. Pacific Command said it was assessing the type of missile but it was “not consistent with an intercontinental ballistic missile.”

“U.S. Pacific Command is fully committed to working closely with our Republic of Korea and Japanese allies to maintain security,” a spokesperson said, referring to South Korea by its official name.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in, who took office on Wednesday, held his first National Security Council meeting as president in response to North Korea’s latest missile launch, which he called a “clear violation” of U.N. Security Council resolutions, the presidential office said.

“The president said while South Korea remains open to the possibility of dialog with North Korea, it is only possible when the North shows a change in attitude,” Yoon Young-chan, Moon’s press secretary, said at a briefing.

Moon won Tuesday’s election on a platform of a moderate approach to North Korea and has said he would be willing to go to Pyongyang under the right circumstances, arguing dialog must be used in parallel with sanctions to resolve its neighbor’s defiance of the international community.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told reporters on Sunday that North Korea’s repeated missile launches are a “grave threat to our country and a clear violation of UN resolutions.”

Abe said Japan will stay in close touch with the United States and South Korea.

Japan Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga declined to comment when he was asked whether the latest missile launch was a success, and whether it represented a new level of threat.

MISSILE TESTS AT UNPRECEDENTED PACE

North Korea launched the Pukguksong-2 missile, an upgraded, extended-range version of its submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM), from the same Kusong site on Feb 12.

South Korean and U.S. military officials said the February launch was a significant development as it successfully tested a solid-fuel engine from a mobile launcher. The missile flew about 500 km with an altitude of 550 km.

It represented a more significant threat because of the difficulty of tracking a mobile launcher and because of the ability to keep the missile fueled in advance, unlike liquid fuel rockets.

The North attempted but failed to test-launch ballistic missiles four consecutive times in the past two months but has conducted a variety of missile tests since the beginning of last year at an unprecedented pace.

Weapons experts and government officials believe the North has accomplished some technical progress with those tests.

U.S. President Donald Trump warned in an interview with Reuters in late April that a “major, major conflict” with the North was possible, but he would prefer a diplomatic outcome to the dispute over its nuclear and missile programs.

On Saturday, a senior North Korean diplomat who is a veteran member of its nuclear negotiating team, said the country was open to dialog with the Trump administration under the right conditions, without elaborating.

Choe Son Hui, the North’s Foreign Ministry director general for U.S. affairs, spoke to reporters while in transit in Beijing after attending a conference with former U.S. officials in Norway.

South Korea, the United States and other regional powers have been stepping up efforts to diffuse tensions over the North’s weapons program after a sharp rise in tensions in April over concerns that it may conduct a sixth nuclear test.

North Korea has briefly reported on Moon’s election win and said conservatives in South Korea should be thrown out for good for inciting confrontation between the rival states.

There was no immediate reaction from China. Delegations from Washington, Seoul and Pyongyang are gathering in Beijing on Sunday to attend China’s new Silk Road forum, its biggest diplomatic event of the year. (Additional reporting by Linda Sieg in Tokyo; Editing by Soyoung Kim and Neil Fullick)   (REUTERS)

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