North Korea on Tuesday claimed it had successfully tested its first intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), the news agency Yonhap reported, despite international condemnation and calls for dialogue.
In a special broadcast on state-run television, Pyongyang said the Hwasong-14 missile had reached a cruising altitude of 2,802 kilometres and had flown 933 kilometres before landing in the Sea of Japan early Tuesday.
South Korea had earlier said it was investigating the possibility that the rocket had been an ICBM, while US Pacific Command described it as an “intermediate range ballistic missile.”
Russia’s Defence Ministry also refuted North Korea’s claim, saying it had monitored the flight of the missile and came to the conclusion that it was a “medium range” ballistic missile.
Tuesday’s launch came days before a summit of G20 leaders in Hamburg, Germany, and a day after US President Donald Trump called China’s President Xi Jinping and Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to discuss the nuclear threat from Pyongyang.
Trump, who has turned to Beijing for help in reining in North Korea, sent a series of tweets after the launch, apparently ridiculing North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and urging China to do more.
“North Korea has just launched another missile. Does this guy have anything better to do with his life?” he wrote.
“Hard to believe that 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!”
A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman said Tuesday that “the issue can only be resolved through peaceful dialogue and consultation.”
China opposes North Korea’s breach of UN Security Council stipulations related to its use of missile and ballistic technologies, spokesman Geng Shuang told a press briefing in Beijing.
“China has made efforts and will continue to make efforts to solve this issue,” he said, adding that China hopes all sides will show self-restraint and avoid taking actions that will escalate the situation.
In May the US carried out a successful missile interception test amid fears that Pyongyang was attempting to develop a nuclear weapon that could strike the US mainland.
In his phone call with Xi, Trump had made it clear that Washington was prepared to act alone to pressure Pyongyang to give up its nuclear programme, the New York Times reported on Tuesday, citing administration officials.
The White House had only stated afterwards that the two leaders “reaffirmed their commitment to a denuclearized Korean Peninsula.”
Abe said that Tuesday’s launch showed “increasing threats” from North Korea and that he would urge Xi and Russian President Vladimir Putin to play a “more constructive” role in dealing with North Korea at the G20.
North Korea has ramped up its nuclear programme over the past year and has staged six missile launches since South Korean President Moon Jae In took office on May 10.
On Monday, China warned that if tensions in the region continued to escalate, the situation could “get out of control” with “disastrous” consequences.
China’s UN Ambassador Liu Jieyi said that Beijing would push for the US and South Korea to halt military exercises on the Korean Peninsula in exchange for North Korea suspending its nuclear and ballistic missile programmes.
But Trump has repeatedly warned that the “era of strategic patience” with Pyongyang is over and last week called for a “determined response” at a meeting with Moon in Washington.
Trump, Abe and Moon are expected to discuss North Korea on the sidelines of this week’s G20 summit, while Trump is expected to hold talks separately with Xi.