North Korea has said it’s ready to deploy and start mass-producing a new medium-range ballistic missile after a weekend test that sparked a fresh chorus of international condemnation.
The state-run Korean Central News Agency said the North’s leader Kim Jong-Un oversaw Sunday’s launch of the solid-fuel Pukguksong-2 missile.
The test verified technical aspects of the weapon system and examined its “adaptability under various battle conditions”, the KCNA said.
Kim reportedly said the launch was a success, “approved the deployment of this weapon system for action” and said that it should “be rapidly mass-produced”.
The US, South Korea and Japan sharply denounced the launch and jointly requested an emergency meeting of the United Nations Security Council, which will be held Tuesday.
Pyongyang 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 defence against US aggression. It’s often-stated goal is to perfect a nuclear warhead that it can put on a missile capable of hitting Washington and other US cities.
‘Earth is beautiful’
The Pukguksong-2 flew about 500 km, reaching an altitude of 560 km, before landing in the Sea of Japan.
The North also released several pictures of the Earth said to have been taken from the rocket from space.
Kim “said he was very happy to see pictures of the Earth taken by our rocket and that the world looks beautiful”, KCNA said.
The use of solid fuel presents advantages for weapons because the fuel is more stable and can be transported easily in the missile’s tank, allowing for a launch at very short notice.
Liquid-fuel missiles, on the other hand, are fueled at the launch site in a process that can last an hour, making it easier to spot and easier to destroy than the solid-fuel variety.
The South’s military said the launch had provided the North with data to improve its missiles’ reliability, but whether it had mastered the re-entry technology for the warhead needs additional analysis.
The test-firing came just one week after the North launched a Hwasong-12 intermediate-range missile, which according to Pyongyang was capable of carrying a “heavy” nuclear warhead.
Analysts said that at 4,500 km the Hwasong-12 had a longer range than any previous ballistic missile successfully tested by the North, putting US bases on the Pacific island of Guam within reach – and that it could serve as a platform to develop a long-range inter-continental ballistic missile.
So far Washington has opted for sanctions and diplomatic pressure, while looking to China to help rein in Pyongyang.
China repeated on Monday its call for all parties to exercise restraint to not let tension mount further.
Japan said it cannot “absolutely tolerate” the May 21 launch.
Seoul’s foreign ministry slammed the “reckless and irresponsible” weekend firing as “throwing cold water on the hope and longing of the new government and the international community” for denuclearisation and peace on the Korean peninsula.