The US has called for tougher UN sanctions after North Korea said it test-fired its biggest intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) to date.
North Korean state media reported the North’s first long-range test since 2017, and South Korea and Japan said they detected it.
Thursday’s launch extended a barrage of weapons demonstrations this year that analysts say are aimed at forcing the US to accept the idea of North Korea as a nuclear power and remove crippling sanctions against its broken economy.
At a UN Security Council meeting on Friday, US ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield said the US would propose a resolution “to update and strengthen” Security Council sanctions. She declined to specify what those new measures might be.
“It is clear that remaining silent, in the hope that the DPRK (Democratic People’s Republic of North Korea) would similarly show restraint, is a failed strategy,” she said.
The council originally imposed sanctions after the North’s first nuclear test explosion in 2006 and tightened them over the years. But last fall, veto-wielding China and Russia called for lifting various sanctions against their neighbour.
Russian deputy ambassador Anna Evstigneeva said that further sanctions would only harm North Korea’s people, while Chinese ambassador Zhang Jun urged the council “to consider how to accommodate the DPRK’s justified security concerns”.
He suggested that the US did not do enough to respond to the North’s 2018 self-imposed pause on long-range missile and nuclear tests and needed to “show its goodwill” and “work harder to stabilise the situation” and resume dialogue.
North Korea did not speak at the council meeting. A message seeking comment was sent to its UN mission.
Meanwhile, the US imposed new sanctions of its own against five entities and individuals in Russia and North Korea over transferring sensitive items to the North’s missile program, State Department spokesperson Ned Price said.
North Korean state TV dramatised the missile testing process like a Hollywood movie, showing leader Kim Jong Un walking in slow motion in front of a giant missile in sunglasses and a black leather motorcycle jacket. After a series of quick cuts of Mr Kim and military officials staring at their watches, Mr Kim takes off his shades and nods, and the missile is shown being rolled out of the hangar.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, left, walks around what the country says is a Hwasong-17 intercontinental ballistic missile on a launcher (Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP)
The Hwasong-17, which was fired at a high angle to avoid the territorial waters of neighbours, reached a maximum altitude of 6,248 kilometres (3,880 miles) and travelled 1,090 kilometres (680 miles) during a 67-minute flight before landing in waters between North Korea and Japan, Pyongyang’s official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said.
KCNA claimed the launch met its technical objectives and proved the ICBM could be operated quickly during wartime conditions.
The South Korean and Japanese militaries had announced similar flight details, which analysts say suggested that the missile could reach targets 15,000 kilometres (9,320 miles) away when fired on normal trajectory with a warhead weighing less than a ton. That would place the entire US mainland within striking distance.
Believed to be about 25 metres (82 feet) long, the Hwasong-17 is the North’s longest-range weapon and, by some estimates, the world’s biggest road-mobile ballistic missile system. North Korea revealed the missile in a military parade in October 2020 and Thursday’s launch was its first full-range test.
KCNA paraphrased Mr Kim as saying that the new weapon would make the “whole world clearly aware” of the North’s bolstered nuclear forces.
He vowed for his military to acquire “formidable military and technical capabilities unperturbed by any military threat and blackmail and keep themselves fully ready for long-standing confrontation with the US imperialists”.