South Korea Warns: Be prepared for N.K to test a full scale ICBM very soon

FILE PHOTO: A North Korean flag flies on a mast at the Permanent Mission of North Korea in Geneva October 2, 2014. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse/File Picture

Revelations 6:3-4 “ when he opened the second seal, I heard the second living creature say, “Come!” 4 And out came another horse, bright red. Its rider was permitted to take peace from the earth, so that people should slay one another, and he was given a great sword.

Important Takeaways:

  • North Korea may be gearing up for a full ICBM test, just when U.S. attention is focused elsewhere
  • Pyongyang is showing mounting signs it may be gearing up for a major weapons test – potentially its first since 2017 of an intercontinental ballistic missile that could threaten U.S. cities.
  • South Korea, meanwhile, is planning its own solid-fuel space rocket test this month, in line with its plans to develop military satellites, which would be used to monitor North Korea.
  • The next few months may lay the foundation for rocky inter-Korean relations during a time when U.S. attention is focused on the Russian invasion, with fewer resources to divert elsewhere.
  • More than four years have passed since Pyongyang tested an ICBM capable of reaching the U.S. mainland. Since then, Kim Jong Un’s regime has shifted his focus to building a range of short- to intermediate-range missiles that can strike U.S. allies in the region.

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North Korea test fires rockets in Thanksgiving reminder of year-end deadline for U.S.

North Korea test fires rockets in Thanksgiving reminder of year-end deadline for U.S.
By Hyonhee Shin and Jack Kim

SEOUL (Reuters) – Breaking a month-long lull in missile tests, North Korea fired two short range projectiles into the sea off its east coast on Thursday in what appeared to be the latest try out its new multiple rocket launchers, South Korea’s military said.

The test-firing came as the clock ticks down on the year-end deadline that Pyongyang had given the United Stated to show flexibility in their stalled denuclearization talks.

It also coincided with the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday, and took place one day before the second anniversary of the North’s test of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) capable of hitting the U.S. mainland.

South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said the North fired the two projectiles into the sea from launchers in the eastern coastal town of Yonpo at around 5 p.m. (0800 GMT).

The rockets traveled up to 380 km (236 miles) and reached an altitude of 97 km (60 miles), the JCS said.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said the launch was a threat to not only Japan but the region and beyond, though his defense ministry said the projectile did not enter Japanese airspace or its Exclusive Economic Zone.

“We will remain in close contact with the United States, South Korea and the international community to monitor the situation,” Abe told reporters.

The launch is the first since Oct. 31, when the North tested what it called super-large multiple rocket launchers, which had also been used in tests conducted in August and September that were overseen by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

South Korea’s military expressed “strong regret,” urging the North to stop stoking military tension.

“Such acts by North Korea are unhelpful for efforts to ease tension on the Korean peninsula,” Jeon Dong-jin, director of operations at the JCS, told a news briefing.

LOOMING DEADLINE

Kim has set an end-of-the-year deadline for denuclearization talks with Washington, but negotiations have been at an impasse after a day-long working level meeting on Oct. 5 ended without progress.

North Korea has been demanding the lifting of sanctions that are hobbling its economy, and its leader Kim Jong Un set the deadline for Washington to show more flexibility in April, raising concerns he could resume nuclear and long-range missile testing suspended since 2017.

U.S. Special Representative for North Korea Stephen Biegun said last week the year-end deadline was an artificial one, but could mean a return to “provocative” steps that preceded the past two years of diplomacy.

U.S. President Donald Trump, who is seeking re-election next year, has repeatedly held up the suspension of long-range missile and nuclear bomb tests as a major achievement of his engagement with North Korea.

Analysts believe Pyongyang is trying to send a Thanksgiving reminder to the United States by demonstrating progress in weapons development on the anniversary of the 2017 ICBM test.

“Today’s launch fit a North Korean pattern of escalating pressure on Washington and Seoul ahead of Kim Jong-un’s year-end deadline,” said Leif-Eric Easley, who teaches international studies at Ewha Womans University in Seoul.

North Korean officials have warned the United States to abandon its hostile policy toward the North or Pyongyang would walk away from the talks.

The North has demanded the lifting of sanctions against it and the abandonment of joint military drills by the United States and South Korea, which it calls preparations for an invasion.

The test also comes a week after South Korea pulled back from a decision to scrap an intelligence-sharing pact with Japan, a key element of security cooperation between the key U.S. allies in the region.

On Thursday, the Pentagon referred Reuters to the U.S. Forces Korea for comment. The State Department and the White House did not respond to a request for comment.

(Reporting by Jack Kim and Hyonhee Shin in Seoul and Naomi Tajitsu and William Mallard in Tokyo; Additional reporting by David Brunnstrom in Washington, Editing by Angus MacSwan)

U.S. general says North Korea not demonstrated all components of ICBM

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un gives field guidance at the Pyongyang Pharmaceutical Factory, in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang January 25, 2018.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – North Korea’s nuclear program has made some strides in recent months but the country has not yet demonstrated all the components of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), including a survivable re-entry vehicle, the vice chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff said on Tuesday.

Air Force General Paul Selva’s remarks confirm an assessment by Defense Secretary Jim Mattis in December that North Korea’s ICBM did not pose an imminent threat to the United States.

“What he has not demonstrated yet are the fusing and targeting technologies and survivable re-entry vehicle,” Selva said, referring to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

“It is possible he has them, so we have to place the bet that he might have them, but he hasn’t demonstrated them,” Selva, the second highest-ranking U.S. military official, added.

In November, North Korea said it had successfully tested a new type of ICBM that could reach all of the U.S. mainland and South Korea and U.S.-based experts said data from the test appeared to support that.

Selva said that if conflict were to break out, it was unlikely the United States would be able to get an early indication of North Korean launches.

“It is very unlikely that in a tactical situation, we would get any of the indications and warning that would precede a launch other than if we got lucky and saw the movement of the launch mechanism to the launch platform,” Selva said.

(Reporting by Idrees Ali; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and James Dalgleish)

China halts oil product exports to North Korea in November as sanctions bite

A North Korean iron ore mine, near the North Korean town of Musan is seen in this general view taken May 11, 2013.

By Ryan Woo and Muyu Xu

BEIJING (Reuters) – China exported no oil products to North Korea in November, Chinese customs data showed, apparently going above and beyond sanctions imposed earlier this year by the United Nations in a bid to limit petroleum shipments to the isolated country.

Tensions have flared anew over North Korea’s ongoing nuclear and missile programmes, pursued in defiance of years of U.N. resolutions. Last week, the U.N. Security Council imposed new caps on trade with North Korea, including limiting oil product shipments to just 500,000 barrels a year.

Beijing also imported no iron ore, coal or lead from North Korea in November, the second full month of the latest trade sanctions imposed by U.N.

China, the main source of North Korea’s fuel, did not export any gasoline, jet fuel, diesel or fuel oil to its isolated neighbour last month, data from the General Administration of Customs showed on Tuesday.

November was the second straight month China exported no diesel or gasoline to North Korea. The last time China’s jet fuel shipments to Pyongyang were at zero was in February 2015.

“This is a natural outcome of the tightening of the various sanctions against North Korea,” said Cai Jian, an expert on North Korea at Fudan University in Shanghai.

The tightening “reflects China’s stance”, he said.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said she didn’t know any details about the oil products export situation.

“As a principle, China has consistently fully, correctly, conscientiously and strictly enforced relevant U.N. Security Council resolutions on North Korea. We have already established a set of effective operating mechanisms and methods,” she said at a regular briefing on Tuesday, without elaborating.

Since June, state-run China National Petroleum Corp (CNPC) [CNPET.UL] has suspended sales of gasoline and diesel to North Korea, concerned that it would not get paid for its goods, Reuters previously reported.

Beijing’s move to turn off the taps completely is rare.

In March 2003, China suspended oil supplies to North Korea for three days after Pyongyang fired a missile into waters between the Korean Peninsula and Japan.

It is unknown if China still sells crude oil to Pyongyang. Beijing has not disclosed its crude exports to North Korea for several years.

Industry sources say China still supplies about 520,000 tonnes, or 3.8 million barrels, of crude a year to North Korea via an aging pipeline. That is a little more than 10,000 barrels a day, and worth about $200 million a year at current prices.

North Korea also sources some of its oil from Russia.

TOTAL TRADE LESS THAN $400 MILLION

Chinese exports of corn to North Korean in November also slumped, down 82 percent from a year earlier to 100 tonnes, the lowest since January. Exports of rice plunged 64 percent to 672 tonnes, the lowest since March.

Trade between North Korea and China has slowed through the year, particularly after China banned coal purchases in February. In November, China’s trade with North Korea totalled $388 million, one of the lowest monthly volumes this year.

China has renewed its call on all countries to make constructive efforts to ease tensions on the Korean peninsula, urging the use of peaceful means to resolve issues.

But tensions flared again after North Korea on Nov. 29 said it had tested a new intercontinental ballistic missile that put the U.S. mainland within range of its nuclear weapons.

Meanwhile Chinese exports of liquefied petroleum gas to North Korea, used for cooking, rose 58 percent in November from a year earlier to 99 tonnes. Exports of ethanol, which can be turned into a biofuel, gained 82 percent to 3,428 cubic metres.

 

(Reporting by Muyu Xu and Ryan Woo; Additional reporting by Meng Meng, Hallie Gu, Christian Shepherd and Ben Blanchard; Editing by Kenneth Maxwell and Tom Hogue)

North Korea warns of ‘more gift packages’ for U.S.

North Korea warns of 'more gift packages' for U.S.

By Stephanie Nebehay

GENEVA (Reuters) – Amid international uproar over North Korea’s latest and biggest nuclear weapons test, one of its top diplomats said on Tuesday it was ready to send “more gift packages” to the United States.

Han Tae Song, ambassador of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) to the U.N. in Geneva, was addressing the U.N.-sponsored Conference on Disarmament two days after his country detonated its sixth nuclear test explosion.

“I am proud of saying that just two days ago on the 3rd of September, DPRK successfully carried out a hydrogen bomb test for intercontinental ballistic rocket under its plan for building a strategic nuclear force,” Han told the Geneva forum.

“The recent self-defense measures by my country, DPRK, are a ‘gift package’ addressed to none other than the U.S.,” Han said.

“The U.S. will receive more ‘gift packages’ from my country as long as its relies on reckless provocations and futile attempts to put pressure on the DPRK,” he added without elaborating.

Military measures being taken by North Korea were “an exercise of restraint and justified self-defense right” to counter “the ever-growing and decade-long U.S. nuclear threat and hostile policy aimed at isolating my country”.

“Pressure or sanctions will never work on my country,” Han declared, adding: “The DPRK will never under any circumstances put its nuclear deterrence on the negotiating table.”

U.S. disarmament ambassador Robert Wood said that North Korea had defied the international community once again with its test.

“We look forward to working with our partners in the (Security) Council with regard to a new resolution that will put some of the strongest sanctions possible on the DPRK,” he told the conference.

“Advances in the regime’s nuclear and missile program are a threat to us all … now is the time to say tests, threats and destabilizing actions will no longer be tolerated,” Wood said.

“It can no longer be business as usual with this regime.”

The White House said on Monday President Donald Trump had agreed “in principle” to scrap a warhead weight limit on South Korea’s missiles in the wake of the North’s latest test.

The United States accused North Korea’s trading partners of aiding its nuclear ambitions and said Pyongyang was “begging for war”.

(Editing by Tom Miles and Andrew Roche)

In photos, North Korea signals a more powerful ICBM in the works

North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un looks on during a visit to the Chemical Material Institute of the Academy of Defense Science in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang on August 23, 2017. KCNA/via REUTERS

By Jack Kim and Heekyong Yang

SEOUL (Reuters) – With photographs obliquely showing a new rocket design, North Korea has sent a message that it is working on an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) more powerful than any it has previously tested, weapons experts said on Thursday.

If developed, such a missile could possibly reach any place on the U.S. mainland, including Washington and New York, they said.

North Korea’s state media published photographs late on Wednesday of leader Kim Jong Un standing next to a diagram of a three-stage rocket it called the Hwasong-13.

Missile experts, who carefully examine such pictures for clues about North Korea’s weapons programs, said there is no indication that the rocket has been fully developed. In any case, it had not been flight tested and it was impossible to calculate its potential range, they said.

However, a three-stage rocket would be more powerful than the two-stage Hwasong-14 ICBM tested on two occasions in July, they said. South Korean and U.S. officials and experts have said the Hwasong-14 possibly had a range of about 10,000 km (6,200 miles) and could strike many parts of the United States, but not the East Coast.

“We should be looking at Hwasong-13 as a 12,000-km class ICBM that can strike all of the mainland United States,” said Kim Dong-yub, a military expert at Kyungnam University’s Institute for Far Eastern Studies in Seoul.

A distance in excess of 11,000 km (6,800 miles) will put Washington and New York within range from anywhere in North Korea.

“It’s likely meant to show that they are working on a three-stage design with greater boost and range,” said retired Brigadier General Moon Sung-muk, an arms control expert who has represented South Korea in military talks with the North.

“They tested the Hwasong-14 which has an estimated range of 9,000 km, 10,000 km. This one can go further, is the message,” he said.

TENSIONS EASE

Pyongyang’s intentions in showing plans for the new missile were clear, the experts said. The photographs were accompanied by a report of Kim issuing instructions for the production of more rocket engines and warheads during a visit to the Academy of Defense Sciences, an agency he has set up to develop ballistic missiles.

“We’re getting a look at it to emphasize domestic production of missiles, and to advertise what’s coming next,” said Joshua Pollack, a nuclear weapon and missile systems expert who edits the U.S.-based Nonproliferation Review.

The photographs were published as tensions between North Korea and the United States appeared to have eased slightly after the isolated nation tested the Hwasong-14 and later threatened to fire missiles toward the U.S. Pacific territory of Guam.

Wednesday’s report carried by the KCNA news agency lacked the traditionally robust threats against the United States, and U.S. President Donald Trump expressed optimism about a possible improvement in relations.

Kim, the expert at Kyungnam University, said from the design standpoint, Hwasong-13 was similar to the KN-08, a three-stage missile of which only a mockup has previously been seen at military parades. But the new images show a modified design for the main booster stage that clusters two engines.

Another picture published by North Korean state media showed Kim Jong Un standing next to a rocket casing that appeared to be made of a material that could include plastic. Experts said if such material were used in the missile, it would be intended to reduce weight and boost range.

The photographs also showed the design for the Pukguksong-3, likely a new solid-fuel intermediate-range ballistic missile being developed for submarine launches.

Moon, the former South Korean general, said the pictures were intended to show that the North was refusing to bow to international pressure to call off its weapons programs.

“The North is trying to be in control of the playing field,” Moon said.

For a graphic on North Korean missile ranges, click: http://fingfx.thomsonreuters.com/gfx/rngs/NORTHKOREA-MISSILES/010041L63FE/index.html

(Additional reporting by James Pearson and Christine Kim; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan)

Hawaii, Alaska contemplate coming into North Korean missile range

An MH-60S Sea Hawk helicopter participates in a helicopter training exercise over Diamond Head crater on the Hawaiian island of Oahu in this July 3, 2014 handout photo obtained by Reuters July 6, 2017. Ensign Joseph Pfaff/U.S. Navy/Handout via REUTERS

By Karin Stanton and Jill Burke

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii/WILLOW, Alaska (Reuters) – Disused military tunnels snake beneath the crater of Diamond Head, out of sight of the tourists lounging near the volcano on Waikiki Beach but very much on the mind of Gene Ward, a state representative from Honolulu.

Alarmed by North Korea’s latest missile tests and claims that its newly developed intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) can carry a large nuclear warhead, Ward believes it is time to refurbish the tunnels as civilian shelters in case of a North Korean attack.

“We’ve had wake-up calls before but what happened on July 3 is shaking us out of bed,” said Ward, referring to Pyongyang’s latest missile test.

North Korea’s state media said the missile reached an altitude of 2,802 km (1,741 miles), and some Western experts said that meant it might have a range of more than 8,000 km (4,970 miles), which would put Hawaii and Alaska within striking distance.

Americans from the Alaskan tundra to the tropics of Hawaii have had years to contemplate North Korea’s accelerating missile program, which has generated both angst and shrugs given that the reclusive government’s true capabilities and intentions remain unknown.

Ward, a Republican in a Democratic-majority state, said he supports reviving state legislation that would reopen the bunkers built by the U.S. military even before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941 that prompted U.S. entry into World War Two.

The tunnels are among many military bunkers and batteries carved into Oahu as part of a buildup that began after Hawaii became a U.S. territory in 1898 and continued through World War Two.

If Hawaiians have a stronger sense of vulnerability stemming from Pearl Harbor, then some Alaskan seem largely unperturbed.

Doyle Holmes, a retired U.S. Navy pilot and hardware store owner who lives about 50 miles (80 km) north of Anchorage, sums up his advice to fellow Alaskans this way: “Go back to sleep and don’t keep worrying about it.”

Holmes, 79, a Republican Party activist who retired in March from the Alaska State Defense Force, said his attitude is rooted in his abiding faith in the U.S. military’s ability to counter any attempt by North Korea to strike American soil.

“It would be self-annihilation if they launch a missile at the United States,” Holmes said.

“I think we are going to be OK. I went through the nuclear fallout classes and the bomb shelter stuff in the 1950s and 1960s,” he said, referring to U.S. preparations for a potential Cold War-era Soviet attack that never came.

Last week the U.S. Senate’s Armed Services Committee proposed $8.5 billion of funding for the Missile Defense Agency to strengthen homeland, regional and space missile defenses.

Some of this would pay for 28 missile interceptors to augment 32 already at a base in Fort Greely, Alaska, a Hill staffer said. The department already had plans to place 40 interceptors at the Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD) battery by the end of 2017.

Some experts on Northeast Asian political and security issues believe political leaders and the media have been too quick to qualify North Korea as a nuclear power, questioning whether it can genuinely delivery a functional nuclear warhead with accuracy or whether North Korea would risk certain U.S. retaliation.

But Denny Roy, a senior fellow with the East-West Center think tank in Honolulu, said the public discourse had definitely changed with the latest episode.

“The milestone is that Americans seem to believe that North Korea can hit the U.S. homeland, whereas up until now it was all theoretical and potential,” Roy said.

Hawaiians are mindful that the islands could make an enticing target given their large concentration of U.S. military power, including the Pacific Command responsible for U.S. forces in Asia.

“I’m not building a bunker yet, but we definitely have to stay vigilant,” said Reece Bonham, 24, a retail manager in the city of Kailua-Kona on the Big Island of Hawaii.

Caelen McHale, 21, a University of Hawaii business management major, was skeptical of North Korea’s claims and confident in U.S. military power, but still worried how the United States might respond.

“Our administration is scarier than North Korea’s,” she said.

(Reporting by Karin Stanton in Hawaii, Jill Burke in Alaska, Daniel Trotta in New York and Patricia Zengerle in Washington; Writing by Steve Gorman and Daniel Trotta; Editing by Daniel Wallis and James Dalgleish)

North Korea says its ICBM can carry nuclear warhead; U.S. calls for global action

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un inspects the intercontinental ballistic missile Hwasong-14 in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang July 5, 2017. KCNA/via REUTERS

By Jack Kim and Christine Kim

SEOUL (Reuters) – North Korea said on Wednesday its newly developed intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) can carry a large nuclear warhead, triggering a call by Washington for global action to hold it accountable for pursuing nuclear weapons.

A spokeswoman for the U.S. Defense Department said it had concluded that North Korea test-launched an ICBM on Tuesday, which some experts now believe had the range to reach the U.S. state of Alaska as well as parts of the mainland United States.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the test, on the eve of the U.S. Independence Day holiday, represented “a new escalation of the threat” to the United States and its allies, and vowed to take stronger measures.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said the test completed his country’s strategic weapons capability that includes atomic and hydrogen bombs and ICBMs, the state KCNA news agency said.

Pyongyang would not negotiate with the United States to give up those weapons until Washington abandons its hostile policy against the North, KCNA quoted Kim as saying.

“He, with a broad smile on his face, told officials, scientists and technicians that the U.S. would be displeased … as it was given a ‘package of gifts’ on its ‘Independence Day’,” KCNA said.

Kim ordered them to “frequently send big and small ‘gift packages’ to the Yankees,” it added.

The launch came days before leaders from the Group of 20 nations are due to discuss steps to rein in North Korea’s weapons program, which it has pursued in defiance of United Nations Security Council sanctions.

The test successfully verified the technical requirements of the newly developed ICBM in stage separation, the atmospheric re-entry of the warhead and the late-stage control of the warhead, KCNA said.

Tillerson warned that any country that hosts North Korean workers, provides economic or military aid to Pyongyang, or fails to implement U.N. sanctions “is aiding and abetting a dangerous regime”.

“All nations should publicly demonstrate to North Korea that there are consequences to their pursuit of nuclear weapons,” Tillerson said in a statement.

DIPLOMATIC PRESSURE

U.S. President Donald Trump has been urging China, North Korea’s main trading partner and only big ally, to press Pyongyang to give up its nuclear program.

The U.N. Security Council, currently chaired by China, will hold an emergency meeting on the matter at 3 p.m. EDT (1900 GMT) on Wednesday, following a request by the United States, Japan and South Korea.

Diplomats say Beijing has not been fully enforcing existing international sanctions on its neighbor, and has resisted tougher measures, such as an oil embargo, bans on the North Korean airline and guest workers, and measures against Chinese banks and other firms doing business with the North.

A 2015 U.N. document estimated that more than 50,000 North Korean workers were overseas earning currencies for the regime, with the vast majority in China and Russia.

North Korea appeared to have used a Chinese truck, originally sold for hauling timber, but later converted for military use, to transport and erect the missile on Tuesday.

Trump has indicated he is running out of patience with Beijing’s efforts to rein in North Korea. His administration has said all options are on the table, military included, but suggested those would be a last resort and that sanctions and diplomatic pressure were its preferred course.

Trump is due to meet Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin during the G20 meeting in Germany this week.

Russia and China joined diplomatic forces on Tuesday and called for North Korea to suspend its ballistic missile program in return for a moratorium on large-scale military exercises by the United States and South Korea.

In Beijing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said the joint statement showed the international community wanted dialogue and not antagonistic voices, as he also urged North Korea not to violate U.N. Security Council resolutions.

“We hope relevant counties can maintain calm and restraint, and not take steps that might worsen tensions on the peninsula,” Geng told a daily briefing.

The U.S. and South Korean militaries conducted a ballistic missile test early on Wednesday in a show of force on the east coast of the Korean peninsula. The South said the drill aimed to showcase the ability to strike at the North’s leadership if necessary.

“It’s discouraging that the Chinese (and Russians) are still calling for ‘restraint by all sides’, despite the fact that their client state, North Korea, has cast aside all restraint and is sprinting for the finish line in demonstrating a nuclear-armed ICBM capability,” said Daniel Russel, formerly Washington’s top East Asia diplomat, now a diplomat in residence at the Asia Society Policy Institute.

LONG-RANGE MISSILE

The North’s state media said the missile, Hwasong-14, flew 933 km (580 miles), reaching an altitude of 2,802 km (1,741 miles) in its 39 minutes of flight.

Some analysts said the flight details suggested the new missile had a range of more than 8,000 km (4,970 miles), which would put significant parts of the U.S. mainland in range, a major advance in the North’s program.

The launch was both earlier and “far more successful than expected”, said U.S.-based missile expert John Schilling, a contributor to the Washington-based North Korea monitoring project, 38 North.

It would now probably only be a year or two before a North Korean ICBM achieved “minimal operational capability,” he added.

Experts say a reliable nuclear-tipped ICBM would require a small warhead to fit a long-range missile, technology to protect against intense heat as it re-enters the atmosphere, separate the warhead and guide it to its target.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in, who ordered Wednesday’s drill, said, “The situation was no longer sufficient to respond to the North’s provocation by making statements,” according to his office.

Tuesday’s test poses fresh challenges for Moon, who took office in May with a pledge to engage the North in dialogue while keeping up pressure and sanctions to impede its weapons programs.

His defense minister, Han Min-koo, told parliament on Wednesday there was a high possibility of a sixth nuclear test by the North, but there were no specific indications.

For an interactive graphic on North Korea’s missile program, click http://fingfx.thomsonreuters.com/gfx/rngs/NORTHKOREA-MISSILES/010041L63FE/index.html

(Additional reporting by Lesley Wroughton, David Brunnstrom and Phil Stewart in Washington, and Michelle Nichols in New York and Christian Shepherd in Beijing; Editing by Soyoung Kim and Clarence Fernandez)

North Korea appeared to use China truck in its first claimed ICBM test

The intercontinental ballistic missile Hwasong-14 is seen in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang, July, 4 2017. KCNA/via REUTERS

By James Pearson and Jack Kim

SEOUL (Reuters) – North Korea appeared to use a Chinese truck originally sold for hauling timber to transport and erect a ballistic missile that was successfully launched on Tuesday, highlighting the challenge of enforcing sanctions to curb its weapons program.

North Korea state television showed a large truck painted in military camouflage carrying the missile. It was identical to one a U.N. sanctions panel has said was “most likely” converted from a Chinese timber truck.

Since 2006, U.N. sanctions have banned the shipment of military hardware to North Korea. But control of equipment and vehicles that have “dual-use” military and civilian applications has been far less stringent.

The vehicle was imported from China and declared for civilian use by the North Korean foreign ministry, according to a 2013 report by the U.N. panel. Tuesday’s launch was the first time the truck had been seen in a military field operation in pictures published in state media.

China, North Korea’s largest trading partner and its sole major ally, is under increasing pressure from U.S. President Donald Trump, who has said Chinese efforts to rein in North Korea’s weapons programs have failed.

The truck had been previously on display at military parades in 2012 and in 2013 carrying what experts said appeared to be developmental models or mock-ups of North Korea’s intercontinental ballistic missiles.

Images on the North Korea’s state television showed soldiers working on the vehicle mounted with a missile, which was then erected and off-loaded ahead of the launch at a hillside location. Leader Kim Jong Un supervised the test.

The transporter-erector-launcher (TEL) is a vehicle designed to move a ballistic missile and stand it upright, allowing for a mobile system that makes surveillance difficult for spy satellites.

In its 2013 report, the U.N. panel of experts said the features of the vehicle in the 2012 parade exactly matched those of a vehicle sold by China’s Hubei Sanjiang Space Wanshan Special Vehicle Company.

DELIBERATE BREACH?

The company is a subsidiary of China Aerospace Science and Industry Corp, a state-owned company that makes the Shenzhou rocket as well as missiles.

A company manager reached by telephone declined to comment citing the sensitivity of the issue.

China submitted to the U.N. panel a copy of the end user certificate provided by the North stating that six of the vehicles were being imported for the purpose of transporting timber.

The panel said it “considers it most likely that the (North) deliberately breached” the certificate and converted the trucks into transporter-erector-launchers.

This year, North Korea used another Chinese-made truck model to tow submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBM) at a military parade on the 105th anniversary of the birth of state founder Kim Il Sung.

Last year, state media published photos showing Chinese-made trucks being used in a new North Korean mobile rocket artillery system.

Both vehicles showed the logo or had markings specific to the Chinese company Sinotruk.

A Sinotruk sales official said in April he was not aware the company’s trucks were used in the military parade.

North Korean state media has in the past released images of Sinotruk chassis and cabins related to construction or mining.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry said on Tuesday, after the launch, it was opposed to North Korea contravening rules laid out in U.N. Security council resolutions. China was working hard to resolve the issue and urged all sides to meet each other half way, it added.

(Writing by Jack Kim; Editing by Bill Tarrant)

North Korea says intercontinental ballistic missile test successful

A man watches a TV broadcast of a news report on North Korea's ballistic missile test, at a railway station in Seoul, South Korea, July 4, 2017. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji

By Christine Kim and Jack Kim

SEOUL (Reuters) – North Korea said on Tuesday it successfully test-launched an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) for the first time, which flew a trajectory that experts said could allow a weapon to hit the U.S. state of Alaska.

The launch came days before leaders from the Group of 20 nations were due to discuss steps to rein in North Korea’s weapons program, which it has pursued in defiance of U.N. Security Council sanctions.

The launch, which North Korea’s state media said was ordered and supervised by leader Kim Jong Un, sent the rocket 933 km (580 miles) reaching an altitude of 2,802 km over a flight time of 39 minutes.

North Korea has said it wants to develop a missile mounted with a nuclear warhead capable of striking the U.S. mainland.

To do that it would need an ICBM with a range of 8,000 km (4,800 miles) or more, a warhead small enough to be mounted on it and technology to ensure its stable re-entry into the atmosphere.

Some analysts said the flight details on Tuesday suggested the new missile had a range of more than 8,000 km, underscoring major advances in its program. Other analysts said they believed its range was not so far.

Officials from South Korea, Japan and the United States said the missile landed in the sea in Japan’s Exclusive Economic Zone after being launched on a high trajectory from near an airfield northwest of the North’s capital, Pyongyang.

“The test launch was conducted at the sharpest angle possible and did not have any negative effect on neighboring countries,” North Korea’s state media said in a statement.

The North said its missiles were now capable of striking anywhere in the world.

“It appears the test was successful. If launched on a standard angle, the missile could have a range of more than 8,000 km,” said Kim Dong-yub, a military expert at Kyungnam University’s Institute of Far Eastern Studies in Seoul.

“But we have to see more details of the new missile to determine if North Korea has acquired ICBM technology.”

South Korean President Moon Jae-in, who convened a national security council meeting, said earlier the missile was believed to be an intermediate-range type, but the military was looking into the possibility it was an ICBM.

‘HEAVY MOVE’

U.S. President Donald Trump wrote on Twitter: “North Korea has just launched another missile. Does this guy have anything better to do with his life?” in an apparent reference to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

“Hard to believe South Korea and Japan will put up with this much longer. Perhaps China will put a heavy move on North Korea and end this nonsense once and for all!”, Trump said in a series of tweets.

Stock markets in both South Korea and Japan fell, with the Kospi ending down 0.6 percent and Japan’s Nikkei share average ending down 0.1 percent.

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said he would ask the presidents of China and Russia to play more constructive roles in efforts to stop Pyongyang’s arms program.

“Leaders of the world will gather at the G20 meeting. I would like to strongly call for solidarity of the international community on the North Korean issue,” Abe told reporters.

Japan said on Monday the United States, South Korea and Japan would have a trilateral summit on North Korea at the G20. Chinese President Xi Jinping will also be at the July 7-8 meeting in Hamburg, Germany.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang called for calm and restraint, and reiterated China’s opposition to North Korea’s violation of U.N. resolutions on missile tests.

Responding to Trump’s tweet, Geng said China had for a long time been working hard to resolve the North Korean nuclear issue.

“China’s contribution is obvious to all. China’s role is indispensable,” he told a daily news briefing.

China would continue to work hard and also hoped other parties would work hard too, Geng said.

“We hope all sides can meet each other half way.”

North Korea says it needs to develop its weapons in the face of what it sees as U.S. aggression.

It has conducted five nuclear tests, two since the beginning of last year, and numerous missile tests over the past year.

It often times its tests to show its defiance and to raise the stakes when it sees regional powers getting ready for talks or sanctions, analysts say.

The launch took place hours before the Independence Day celebrations in the United States. North Korea has in the past fired missiles around this time.

LAST CHANCE FOR TALKS?

Despite the unprecedented pace of tests since the start of last year, analysts have said they believed North Korea was years away from having a nuclear-tipped ICBM capable of hitting the United States.

North Korea is also trying to develop intermediate-range missiles capable of hitting U.S. bases in the Pacific. The last North Korean launches before Tuesday were of land-to-sea cruise missiles on June 8.

David Wright, co-director of the Global Security Program at the U.S.-based Union of Concerned Scientists, said the assessments of the Tuesday flight time and distance suggested the missile might was launched on a “very highly lofted” trajectory of more than 2,800 km.

The same missile could reach a maximum range of roughly 6,700 km on a standard trajectory, Wright said in a blog post.

“That range would not be enough to reach the lower 48 states or the large islands of Hawaii, but would allow it to reach all of Alaska,” he said.

South Korea’s Moon said on Monday North Korea now faced its “last opportunity” to engage in talks with the outside world.

North Korea has conducted four ballistic missile tests since Moon took office in May, vowing to use dialogue as well as pressure to bring Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile programs under control.

This week, North Korea was a major topic in phone calls between Trump and the leaders of China and Japan, both of whom reaffirmed their commitment to a denuclearized Korean Peninsula.

Trump has recently suggested he was running out of patience with China’s efforts to pressure North Korea.

(For an interactive package on North Korea’s missile capabilities, click http://tmsnrt.rs/2t6WEPL)

(Additional reporting by Soyoung Kim in SEOUL, Kiyoshi Takenaka and Elaine Lies in TOKYO, Ben Blanchard in BEIJING and Ayesha Rascoe in WASHINGTON; Editing by Bill Tarrant, Robert Birsel)