North Korea on Tuesday boasted its test of a precision-guided missile was “successful”, saying it had zeroed in within a few metres of a target provocatively close to Japan the day before.
The North’s leader Kim Jong-Un supervised the launch of the guided ballistic rocket — the third missile test by the nuclear-armed regime in less than three weeks and carried out in defiance of US threats of military action and UN sanctions.
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“The ballistic rocket flew toward the east sky where the day broke and correctly hit a planned target point with deviation of seven meters after flying over the middle shooting range,” the state-run news agency KCNA said.
South Korea’s military earlier said the Scud-type missile travelled eastward for 450 km (280 miles). Japan said it believed it had fallen into its exclusive economic zone, extending 200 nautical miles from the coast.
The missile test triggered swift condemnation from US President Donald Trump who said it showed “disrespect” to neighbouring China, the North’s sole major ally, which has sought to dampen tensions over Pyongyang’s weapons programme.
The launch was aimed at testing a weapon “capable of making ultra-precision strike on the enemies’ objects at any area”, KCNA said.
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“Whenever news of our valuable victory is broadcast… the Yankees would be very much worried about it and the gangsters of the South Korean puppet army would be dispirited more and more,” Kim was quoted as saying.
– Longest-range rocket yet –
The projectile was showcased for the first time last month as part of Pyongyang’s annual military parade to mark the 105th birth anniversary of the regime’s founder Kim Il-Sung, the news agency added.
Following North Korea’s test-firing earlier this month of what analysts said was its longest-range rocket yet, the UN Security Council vowed to push all countries to tighten sanctions against Pyongyang.
But China has made it clear that the push for talks — and not more sanctions — is its priority. On Monday it pleaded again for dialogue.
“We hope that related parties can remain calm and restrained, ease the tension on the peninsula, and bring the peninsula issue onto the right track of peaceful dialogue again,” the Chinese foreign ministry said.
The US has said it is willing to enter into talks only if the North halts its missile and nuclear tests.
Several rounds of UN sanctions have done little to stop the isolated regime from pushing ahead with its ambition to develop an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) that can deliver a nuclear warhead to the continental US.
The impoverished nation has staged two atomic tests and test-fired dozens of rockets since the beginning of last year, including 12 launched this year.
A simultaneous launch of four missiles held on March 6 saw three falling provocatively close to Japan, sparking alarm in the neighbouring country.
Monday’s test was the third since new South Korean president Moon Jae-In took office, posing a major challenge to Moon who advocated dialogue and reconciliation with Pyongyang in a break from his conservative predecessors.
Many analysts doubt if the North has developed an ICBM or a nuclear warhead small enough to fit atop a missile.
But most agree that the country has made a significant progress under the young leader, who took power after the death of his father and longtime ruler, Kim Jong-Il, in December 2011.