North Korea’s latest missile launch was a successful test of a new type of rocket, Pyongyang’s state media reported. Sunday’s launch was of a “newly-developed mid/long-range strategic ballistic rocket, Hwasong-12”, the official KCNA news agency said, adding that leader Kim Jong-Un “personally oversaw the test-launch of the new type of rocket”.
The isolated North is under multiple sets of United Nations sanctions over its nuclear and missile programmes, which have set alarm bells ringing around the region and in Washington.
The North says it needs atomic weapons to defend itself against the threat of invasion and is widely believed to be making progress in its quest to develop a missile capable of delivering a nuclear warhead to the continental United States -- something President Donald Trump has vowed “won’t happen”.
Tensions between the two reached new heights in recent weeks, with Washington saying military action was an option being considered and Pyongyang issuing threats of its own, sending fears of conflict spiralling.
Trump later appeared to hold open the door to negotiations, saying he would be “honoured” to meet Kim and called him a “smart cookie”.
Last week the South also elected a new president, Moon Jae-In, who advocates reconciliation with Pyongyang and said at his inauguration that he was willing “in the right circumstances” to visit the North to ease tensions.
But he slammed the missile test as a “reckless provocation” after holding an emergency meeting with national security advisers.
Dialogue would be possible “only if the North changes its attitude”, he said according to his spokesman.
KCNA said yesterday’s test was intended to examine the “technical details and characteristics” of a new type of rocket “capable of carrying a powerful and big nuclear warhead”, and also confirmed “the reliability of the newly-developed rocket engine”.
The missile followed its preset flight path to reach an altitude of 2,111.5 kilometres and travelled 787 kilometres, coming down at the “precise location intended”, it added.
Since the beginning of last year the North has carried out two atomic tests and dozens of missile launches as it seeks to refine its weapons.