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North Korea claims new missile can hold large nuclear warhead

16 May 2017

A jubilant leader Kim Jong Un promised more nuclear and missile tests and warned that North Korean weapons could strike the US mainland and Pacific holdings.

South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff confirmed the early morning launch but had few other details, including what type of ballistic missile was sacked.

The test is also an immediate challenge to South Korea's new leader, Moon Jae-in, a liberal elected last week who expressed a desire to reach out to North Korea.

The Hwasong-12 may represent a new stage in the development of North Korea's missile program because it might have been powered by an engine completely designed and constructed in North Korea, according to Jeffrey Lewis, director of the East Asia Nonproliferation Program at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, California.

The report on the missile's flight was largely consistent with South Korean and Japanese assessments on Sunday that it flew 700 km (435 miles) and reached an altitude of more than 2,000 km (1,243 miles), which is further and higher than an intermediate-range missile tested in February from the same region, northwest of Pyongyang.

A North Korean missile would need to travel more than 8,000 kilometers (4,970 miles) to reach the U.S. West Coast.

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China is increasingly finding itself in a position to consider imposing an oil embargo, a last-resort measure to deter North Korea from its nuclear weapons ambitions, after the U.S. House of Representatives voted to toughen sanctions against the North Korean regime, according to experts quoted by South Korea's Yonhap News Agency.

The North Korean statement said the plan had "been put into the extremely serious phase of implementation".

South Korea's unification ministry warned that North Korea should not miscalculate the situation.

The United States called for tougher sanctions against the North, with the White House saying it "has been a flagrant menace for far too long".

Italian Premier Paolo Gentiloni said the G-7 summit his country is hosting later this month would discuss how to deal with the risk North Korea's missile launchings pose to global security.

Last month, Russian Federation and China backed a United Nations Security Council resolution condemning a previous missile launch, demanding that it "immediately" cease further actions that violate resolutions.

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The launch defies United Nations sanctions and provides an early challenge for South Korea's new leader, Moon Jae-in, who has vowed to engage with the regime to bring peace to the peninsula.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told reporters Sunday that the launch is "absolutely unacceptable" and that Japan will respond resolutely.

The nose cone resembles that of the KN-08 ICBM the North is believed to be developing, and the lofted trajectory tests re-entry by putting the missile through extra stress, said Joshua Pollack of the US-based Non-proliferation Review. But she said more analysis was needed. It said U.S. President Donald Trump's "maximum pressure and engagement" policy is only aimed at "stifling us" and will compel the North to "strengthen our nuclear deterrent at the maximum speed".

The US ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, said on Sunday that until Mr Kim meets the US conditions, "we're not sitting down with him".

North Korea has defied calls to curb its missile and nuclear weapons programs, testing its relationship with its lone major ally, China, which has always called for talks to resolve the issue, and prompting South Korea's new president, Moon Jae-in, to "strongly condemn" Sunday's action.

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