People cheer as they watch the news broadcast announcing North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s order to test-fire the newly developed inter-continental ballistic missile Hwasong-15, Wednesday, Nov. 29, 2017, at the Pyongyang Train Station in Pyongyang, North Korea. (AP Photo/Jon Chol Jin)

People cheer as they watch the news broadcast announcing North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s order to test-fire the newly developed inter-continental ballistic missile Hwasong-15, Wednesday, Nov. 29, 2017, at the Pyongyang Train Station in Pyongyang, North Korea. (AP Photo/Jon Chol Jin)

N. Korea fires missile it says is ‘significantly more’ powerful

North Korea announced it launched its most powerful weapon yet early Wednesday

After 2 1/2 months of relative quiet, North Korea launched its most powerful weapon yet early Wednesday, claiming a new type of intercontinental ballistic missile that some observers believe could reach Washington and the entire eastern U.S. seaboard.

In a special state media broadcast hours later, North Korea said it successfully fired a “significantly more” powerful, nuclear-capable ICBM it called the Hwasong-15. Outside governments and analysts concurred the North had made a jump in missile capability.

A resumption of Pyongyang’s torrid testing pace in pursuit of its goal of a viable arsenal of nuclear-tipped missiles that can hit the U.S. mainland had been widely expected, but the power of the missile and suddenness of the test still jolted the Korean Peninsula and Washington. The launch at 3:17 a.m. local time and midday in the U.S. capital indicated an effort to perfect the element of surprise and to obtain maximum attention in the United States.

In a government statement released through state media, North Korea said the Hwasong-15, the “greatest ICBM,” could be armed with a “super-large heavy nuclear warhead” and is capable of striking the “whole mainland” of the United States. The North said the missile reached a height of 4,475 kilometres (2,780 miles) and travelled 950 kilometres (590 miles) before accurately hitting a sea target, similar to the flight data announced by South Korea’s military.

Related: North Korea launches another missile

It said leader Kim Jong Un after the successful launch “declared with pride” that the country has achieved its goal of becoming a “rocket power.” State TV said Kim gave the order on Tuesday and broadcast a photo of Kim’s signed order where he wrote: “Test launch is approved. Taking place at the daybreak of Nov. 29! Fire with courage for the party and country!”

The firing is a clear message of defiance aimed at the Trump administration, which a week earlier had restored North Korea to a U.S. list of terror sponsors. It also ruins nascent diplomatic efforts, raises fears of war or a pre-emptive U.S. strike and casts a deeper shadow over the security of the Winter Olympics early next year in South Korea.

A rattled Seoul responded by almost immediately launching three of its own missiles in a show of force. President Moon Jae-in expressed worry North Korea’s missile threat could force the United States to attack the North before it masters a nuclear-tipped long-range missile, something experts say may be imminent.

“If North Korea completes a ballistic missile that could reach from one continent to another, the situation can spiral out of control,” Moon said at an emergency meeting in Seoul, according to his office. “We must stop a situation where North Korea miscalculates and threatens us with nuclear weapons or where the United States considers a pre-emptive strike.”

Moon has repeatedly declared the U.S. cannot attack the North without Seoul’s approval, but many here worry Washington may act without South Korean input.

The launch was North Korea’s first since it fired an intermediate-range missile over Japan on Sept. 15 and may have broken any efforts at diplomacy. U.S. officials have sporadically floated the idea of direct talks with North Korea if it maintained restraint.

The missile also appears to improve on North Korea’s past launches.

If flown on a standard trajectory, instead of Wednesday’s lofted angle, the missile would have a range of more than 13,000 kilometres (8,100 miles), said U.S. scientist David Wright, a physicist who closely tracks North Korea’s missile and nuclear programs. “Such a missile would have more than enough range to reach Washington, D.C., and in fact any part of the continental United States,” Wright wrote in a blog post for the Union for Concerned Scientists.

North Korea’s description of a “super-large heavy” warhead could raise debate on whether it plans another nuclear test to demonstrate it has such a weapon. When the North flight-tested two of its older ICBM models, the Hwasong-14s, in July, it said the missiles were capable of delivering “large-sized heavy” warheads. The North went on to conduct its sixth and most powerful nuclear test on Sept. 3, which it described as a detonation of a weapon built for ICBMs.

South Korea’s National Intelligence Service told lawmakers in a closed-door briefing the possibility of a nuclear test “cannot be discounted,” lawmaker Kim Byung-kee said.

The missile was launched from near Pyongyang, and Japanese Defence Minister Itsunori Onodera said it landed inside of Japan’s special economic zone in the Sea of Japan, about 250 kilometres (155 miles) west of Aomori, which is on the northern part of Japan’s main island of Honshu.

A big unknown, however, is the missile’s payload. If, as expected, it carried a light mock warhead, then its effective range would have been shorter, analysts said.

The analyses of Wednesday’s test suggest progress by Pyongyang in developing a weapon of mass destruction that could strike the U.S. mainland. President Donald Trump has vowed to prevent North Korea from having that capability — using military force if necessary.

Kim Dong-yub, a former South Korean military official who is now an analyst at Seoul’s Institute for Far Eastern Studies, said the missile is likely an upgraded version of its old ICBM with an enhanced second-stage. He believes the North will try to evaluate the weapon’s performance, including the warhead’s ability to survive atmospheric re-entry and strike the intended target, before it attempts a test that shows the full range of the missile.

In response to the launch, Trump said the United States will “take care of it.” He told reporters after the launch: “It is a situation that we will handle.” He did not elaborate.

The U.N. Security Council scheduled an emergency meeting for Wednesday afternoon at the request of Japan, the U.S. and South Korea.

When the Trump administration declared North Korea a state sponsor of terrorism, the U.S. also imposed new sanctions on North Korean shipping firms and Chinese trading companies dealing with the North. North Korea called the terror designation a “serious provocation” that justifies its development of nuclear weapons.

South Koreans are famously nonchalant about North Korea’s military moves, but there is worry about what the North’s weapons tests might mean for next year’s Winter Olympics in the South. Moon ordered a close review of whether the launch could hurt South Korea’s efforts to successfully host the games in Pyeongchang, which begin Feb. 9.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who spoke with Trump, said Japan will not back down against any provocation and would maximize pressure on the North in its strong alliance with the U.S.

___

Associated Press writers Matthew Pennington, Lolita C. Baldor and Robert Burns in Washington, Mari Yamaguchi in Tokyo and Edith M. Lederer at the United Nations contributed to this report.

Kim Tong-Hyung And Foster Klug, The Associated Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

A tent housing a mobile vaccination clinic. (Interior Health/Contributed)
Over 5K jabbed at Interior Health mobile COVID-19 vaccine clinics

The clinics have made stops in more than 40 communities since launching last week

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry talks about B.C.’s plan to restart the province during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, Tuesday, May 25, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Interior Health COVID-19 cases falling slower than the rest of B.C.

More than a third of provincial cases announced Thursday came from the Interior

A tent housing a mobile vaccination clinic. (Interior Health/Contributed)
Second dose vaccinations accelerating throughout region: Interior Health

To date, more than 675,000 doses have been administered throughout the region

Okanagan Lake (File photo)
Thompson-Okanagan ready to welcome back tourists

The Thompson-Okanagan Tourism Association expects this summer to be a busy one

Aerial view of a wildfire at 16 Mile, 11 kilometres northwest of Cache Creek, that started on the afternoon of June 15. (Photo credit: BC Wildfire Service)
Wildfire at 16 Mile now being held

Wildfire started on the afternoon of June 15 at 16 Mile, east of Highway 97

Marco Mendicino, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship during a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, May 13, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada to welcome 45,000 refugees this year, says immigration minister

Canada plans to increase persons admitted from 23,500 to 45,000 and expedite permanent residency applications

Emily Steele holds up a collage of her son, 16-year-old Elijah-Iain Beauregard who was stabbed and killed in June 2019, outside of Kelowna Law Courts on June 18. (Aaron Hemens/Capital News)
Kelowna woman who fatally stabbed teen facing up to 1.5 years of jail time

Her jail sentence would be followed by an additional one to 1.5 years of supervision

Cpl. Scott MacLeod and Police Service Dog Jago. Jago was killed in the line of duty on Thursday, June 17. (RCMP)
Abbotsford police, RCMP grieve 4-year-old service dog killed in line of duty

Jago killed by armed suspect during ‘high-risk’ incident in Alberta

The George Road wildfire near Lytton, B.C., has grown to 250 hectares. (BC Wildfire Service)
B.C. drone sighting halts helicopters fighting 250 hectares of wildfire

‘If a drone collides with firefighting aircraft the consequences could be deadly,’ says BC Wildfire Service

A dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is pictured at a vaccination site in Vancouver Thursday, March 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
NACI advice to mix vaccines gets varied reaction from AstraZeneca double-dosers

NACI recommends an mRNA vaccine for all Canadians receiving a second dose of a COVID-19 vaccine

A aerial view shows the debris going into Quesnel Lake caused by a tailings pond breach near the town of Likely, B.C., Tuesday, Aug. 5, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Updated tailings code after Mount Polley an improvement: B.C. mines auditor

British Columbia’s chief auditor of mines has found changes to the province’s requirements for tailings storage facilities

A North Vancouver man was arrested Friday and three police officers were injured after a 10-person broke out at English Bay on June 19, 2021. (Youtube/Screen grab)
Man arrested, 3 police injured during 10-person brawl at Vancouver beach

The arrest was captured on video by bystanders, many of whom heckled the officers as they struggled with the handcuffed man

Patrick O’Brien, a 75-year-old fisherman, went missing near Port Angeles Thursday evening. (Courtesy of U.S. Coast Guard)
Search for lost fisherman near Victoria suspended, U.S. Coast Guard says

The 75-year-old man was reported missing Thursday evening

Most Read