North Korea fires second missile in a week

  • 22/05/2017
Kim Jong-un waves to North Korean scientists and technicians (Reuters)
Kim Jong-un waves to North Korean scientists and technicians (Reuters)

North Korea has fired a ballistic missile into waters off its east coast, its second missile test in a week, which South Korea says dashes the hopes of the South's new liberal government for peace between the neighbours.

A South Korean military official said on Sunday the missile appeared to be an upgraded, extended-range version of the North's solid-fuel submarine-launched missile. The missile fired a week ago flew was liquid-fuelled, and flew further.

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-defence.

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

An official travelling with US 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.

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

"The ongoing testing is disappointing, disturbing and we ask that they cease that," he said.

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 eleven days ago 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.

South Korea's foreign ministry said the tests were "reckless and irresponsible actions throwing cold water over the hopes and desires of this new government and the international community for denuclearisation and peace on the Korean peninsula".

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said the latest test was "a snub and a challenge to international efforts for a peaceful resolution".

Abe told reporters he wanted to raise the issue of North Korean missile launches at the Group of Seven leaders' summit in Italy this month. China had no immediate comment.

Sunday's missile was launched from near Pukchang, 60 km northeast of the capital Pyongyang, South Korea's Office of Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement.

The missile flew about 500km, 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.

On Saturday, North Korea's KCNA state news agency said in a commentary: "The US 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."