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Asia Today ISSN 1861-4604 Wednesday, May 24, 2017

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Another North Korean provocation: New ballistic missile sends projectile to a higher altitude

Closer to Russia

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PYONGYANG, North Korea - In yet another provocation, North Korea carried out a new ballistic missile test early on Sunday, causing widespread outrage in the region.> BNN

Officials said that the missile test sent a projectile to a higher altitude and closer to Russia than any of its recent tests.

According to U.S. officials, the missile was launched near the city of Kusong, in western North Korea and flew across the country and into the Sea of Japan/East Sea.

It hit the water about 60 miles from Vladivostok in eastern Russia.

The missile test by North Korea was also the first test since South Korean President Moon Jae-in took office last week. 

South Korean Presidential spokesman Yoon Young-chan said that Moon called the missile test a violation of UN Security Council resolutions and called it a severe challenge to the peace and security of the Korean Peninsula and the world.

The President told his staff that South Korea needs to show the North that even though talks are possible, it will only be possible if North Korea changes its attitude - adding that South Korea would respond to provocations.

Meanwhile, condemning the act, Japanese Defense Minister Tomomi Inada said that the missile reached an altitude of 2,000 kilometers (1,240 miles) and flew for 30 minutes.

Inada said, “It is possibly a new type of missile.”

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe too condemned the launch and said, “Despite strong warning from the international community, North Korea launched a ballistic missile again. This is totally unacceptable and we strongly protest it. North Korea's missile launch is a serious threat to Japan and clearly violate against the UN resolution."

The U.S. in its official response, called for repercussions from the international community.

A statement said, “With the missile impacting so close to Russian soil - in fact, closer to Russia than to Japan - the President cannot imagine that Russia is pleased. Let this latest provocation serve as a call for all nations to implement far stronger sanctions against North Korea. North Korea has been a flagrant menace for far too long. South Korea and Japan have been watching this situation closely with us.”

China meanwhile continued to call for restraint by all parties.

A statement from China's Foreign Ministry said, “The current situation on the Korean Peninsula is complex and sensitive. All sides should exercise restraint and refrain from taking actions that would further escalate tensions in the region.”

According to David Wright, co-director of the Union of Concerned Scientists, the high altitude and longer flight time indicate a missile with an extended range.

Commenting in a blog, Wright reportedly said that if the missile did reach that height and fly that long, it could reach the U.S. territory of Guam in the Pacific, that houses the Andersen Air Force Base.

The U.S. Air Force rotates heavy bombers including B-1s, B-2s and B-52s from this base.

Meanwhile, according to a report from the RIA-Novosti news agency, Russia responded to North Korea's test by putting its far eastern air defenses on high alert. 

Viktor Ozerov, head of the Federation Council Committee on Defense and Security was quoted as saying, "We cannot fail to understand that the territory of Russia is not only an object for attack but also a place where a missile may fall. In order to protect ourselves from possible incidents, we will keep our air defense systems in the Far East in a state of increased combat readiness.”

In a statement, Carl Schuster, a Hawaii Pacific University professor and former director of operations at the U.S. Pacific Command's Joint Intelligence Center said that the direction of the missile, so close to Russia, was likely an attempt by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to send a message to both Moscow and Beijing.

He added, “It tells Russia, 'I can touch you too.’ It tells China, 'I don't care what you think, I'm independent.’”

Schuster added, “The timing is not coincidental,” adding that Kim may be trying to get Putin more involved in the situation on the Korean Peninsula.

He added, “It's his way of telling the Russians, 'You need to speak up,'" and stop U.S.-supported international sanctions on North Korea.

The launch comes merely two weeks after a ballistic missile test that reportedly failed.

On April 29, a missile was launched and U.S. and South Korean officials said that it blew up over land in North Korean territory.

Since U.S. President Donald Trump’s inauguration in January this year, North Korea has attempted at least nine missile launches on six occasions excluding the one on Sunday.

The launch also comes a day after North Korea expressed interest in engaging in talks with the U.S.

 

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