Tuesday, May 16, 2017 11:42 am
North Korea’s missile programme is progressing faster than expected, South Korea’s defence minister said on Tuesday, hours after the UN Security Council demanded the North halt all nuclear and ballistic missile tests and condemned Sunday’s test-launch.
The North, which has defied all calls to rein in its weapons programmes, even from its lone major ally, China, 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 that it could do more.
South Korean Defence Minister Han Min-koo told parliament Sunday’s test-launch was “successful in flight”.
“It is considered an Intermediate Range Ballistic Missile (IRBM of enhanced caliber 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.”
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 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 U.S., 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 in June, 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 said at a briefing.
In a unanimously agreed statement, the 15-member UN Security Council said it was of vital importance that North Korea show “sincere commitment to denuclearisation 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 statement also condemned an April 28 ballistic missile launch by Pyongyang.
Following that launch, Washington began talks with China on possible new UN sanctions.
Traditionally, the U.S. and China have negotiated new measures before involving remaining council members.
The Security Council first imposed sanctions on North Korea in 2006 and has strengthened the measures 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 USS Carl Vinson, to waters off the Korean peninsula to conduct drills with South Korea and Japan.(Reuters/NAN)