Pyongyang extols success of new missile capable of carrying a nuclear warhead

Kim Jong-un shows that his rockets can leave and re-enter the atmosphere. The dictator continues to carry out his tests taking advantage of Trump's distraction with the FBI scandal and Xi Jinping’s world trade summits.

Pyongyang (AsiaNews/Agencies) – North Korea claimed that the missile it tested yesterday was a new type of rocket capable of carrying a large nuclear warhead.

The missile, launched at a steep angle, reached an altitude of 2,000 kilometres and travelled about 700 kilometres, landing in the sea west of Japan.

North Korea’s missile appears able of leaving and re-entering the atmosphere, which is crucial to developing intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), South Korea’s Yonhap news agency reported.

However, repeated missile tests by Pyongyang this year have sparked international alarm and raised tensions with the US. The US and Japan have called for an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council on Tuesday.

ICBM's are considered to have a range of about 6,000 kilometres, but analysts believe the missile tested on Sunday can travel about 4,000 kilometres if fired at a standard trajectory rather than upwards.

Reports indicate that North Korea's top leader Kim Jong-un oversaw the test, noting that he told the scientists and technicians involved "not to be complacent" but to build further "nuclear weapons and methods of delivery" until the US made "the right choice".

In a statement, the White House said that the “latest provocation" should "serve as a call for all nations to implement far stronger sanctions".

South Korea’s newly elected president Moon Jae-in, who is open to dialogue with the North, said it was a "reckless provocation", whilst China, North Korea’s only real ally, is urging restraint.

In a report, the Japanese government said the missile is thought to have flown for about half an hour before falling into the sea.

For Tokyo, the test reconfirmed the reliability of the new missile’s engine and verified the homing feature of a warhead at the time of atmospheric re-entry and accurate performance of its detonation system, the report said. Thus, North Korea is a “nuclear power worthy of the name”.

John Schilling, an engineer who specialises in rockets, said the test shows a “level of performance never before seen from a North Korean missile.”

Sun Xingjie, a Korean affairs specialist at Jilin University, said that “it is actually perfect timing” for Kim.

Chinese President Xi Jinping's main priority these days is to revitalise China’s trading strategies at a number of international meetings in Beijing, whilst US President Donald Trump is occupied with the FBI scandal.

In short, " nobody has kept an eye on Kim,” Sun said. “If the other countries fail to act in concert, North Korea will probably keep using this tactic, pretending to be talking while carrying out more tests.”