(CNN)North Korea says it has successfully completed the launch of a new ballistic missile, according to state media.The Pukguksong-2, a medium long-range ballistic missile, was test fired on Sunday under the supervision of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, according to North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency, KCNA.South Korea and the United States confirmed the launch Sunday.A US official said the missile traveled 500 kilometers (310 miles) before landing in the Sea of Japan, also known as the East Sea, and that it was launched from North Pyongan province.Intermediate-range ballistic missiles typically travel from 3,000 to 5,500 kilometers (1,864 to 3,417 miles).KCNA also reported Kim was present at the site and personally gave the order for the launch, which was the first missile test by Pyongyang since US President Donald Trump took office.The United Nations Security Council said it plans hold consultations on an “urgent basis” Monday afternoon regarding North Korea, according to the US Mission to the United Nations. The meeting was requested by the United States, South Korea and Japan — whose Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, was visiting President Trump in the United States when the launch occurred.“North Korea’s most recent missile launch is absolutely intolerable. North Korea must fully comply with the relevant UN Security Council resolutions,” Abe told a news conference at Palm Beach, Florida.North Korea is prohibited from carrying out ballistic missile launches under UN Security Council resolutions aimed in part at curbing the country’s development of nuclear weapons.Trump spoke after Abe and gave a one-sentence statement: “I just want everybody to understand and fully know that the United States of America stands behind Japan, its great ally, 100%.”Japan’s chief Cabinet secretary, Yoshihide Suga, said the fact the launch came as Abe met with Trump made it “a clear provocation to Japan and the region.”Tokyo has already lodged protests against North Korea via its embassy in Beijing, he said.
‘Punitive actions’KCNA described the missile as a “Korean style new type strategic weapon system, ” capable of carrying a nuclear warhead and capable of “evading interception.” The report by KCNA said Kim “expressed great satisfaction over the possession of another powerful nuclear attack means which adds to the tremendous might of the country.”South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff told CNN the missile appeared to be a modified intermediate-range Musudan level missile. Earlier analysis had guessed it to be a shorter-range Rodong.They ruled out the possibility that it was a longer-range intercontinental ballistic missile, or ICBM — which are usually designed to carry nuclear warheads — based on the flight distance.KCNA said the launch “was conducted by the high-angle launching method instead of firing range, taking the security of the neighboring countries into consideration.”Acting South Korean President Hwang Kyo-ahn said: “The South Korean government and the international community are working together to take punitive actions appropriate for this launch.”Trump’s national security adviser, Michael Flynn, spoke to his South Korean counterpart Kim Kwan Jin, according to the South Korean President’s office. They condemned the launch and agreed “to seek all possible options” to deter Pyongyang in the future.NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg issued a statement on Sunday condemning the launch and saying North Korea “must refrain from further provocations, halt all launches using ballistic missile technology and abandon once and for all its ballistic missile programs in a complete, verifiable and irreversible manner, as required by the UN Security Council.”The European Union, too, condemned North Korea and said that “repeated disregard of its international obligations is provocative and unacceptable” through a statement by the EU’s spokesperson’s office. The statement added., “The high representative/vice-president, Federica Mogherini, will speak in the coming days to the foreign ministers of international partners to further discuss the international response.”China, North Korea’s neighbor and most important strategic partner, has not yet commented on the launch.North Korea conducted an unprecedented number of missile tests in 2016 and a satellite launch that experts said was a sign it has cleared significant hurdles toward ICBM technology. But until Sunday, it hadn’t tested a ballistic missile since October 20.
Step toward missile that can hit US?In January, US and South Korean officials told CNN that North Korea might be readying two ICBMs for a test launch in the near future, though some analysts dispute how close Pyongang actually is to testing such a missile.Retired Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling said Sunday’s test would help the North Koreans improve their missile technology, and could help in their development of an ICBM.“That’s the goal of the North Korean politicians,” he said.“This intermediate ballistic missile is certainly dangerous. It has a greater range than some of the Musudan missiles that they have been testing prior to that. And it’s not only a concern for the United States to hit the mainland, but it also has concerns for all of our Asia partners.”Pyongyang has been steadily working to improve its missile and weapons capability, conducting a fifth nuclear test in September.Many experts think North Korea is a ways away from being able to put a nuclear warhead on its missiles, which would make it a global threat. Still, US commanders say they need to be prepared for the possibility.“Combining nuclear warheads with ballistic missile technology in the hands of a volatile leader like Kim Jong Un is a recipe for disaster,” Adm. Harry Harris, the head of the US military’s Pacific Command, said in a December speech.
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