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‘All US within range after M-test’ – China, Russia responsible for N. Korea threat: Tillerson

SEOUL, July 29, (AFP): Kim Jong-Un boasted of North Korea’s ability to strike any target in the US after a second ICBM test that weapons experts said Saturday could even bring New York into range – in a potent challenge to President Donald Trump.

China condemned the test but US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Beijing and Moscow bore “unique responsibility” for the growing threat posed by the reclusive North.

Under Kim’s leadership North Korea has accelerated its drive towards a credible nuclear strike capability, in defiance of international condemnation and multiple sets of UN sanctions.

Kim said the test “is meant to send a grave warning to the US” and demonstrated the North’s ability to launch “at any place and time,” the official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said.

The “leader said proudly the test also confirmed all the US mainland is within our striking range,” it said.

Trump denounced the launch as “reckless and dangerous” and rejected Pyongyang’s claims that such tests helped ensure its security.

“The United States will take all necessary steps to ensure the security of the American homeland and protect our allies in the region.”

Weapons experts said the altitude and flight time of Friday’s missile suggested it was significantly more powerful than the July 4 test, with a theoretical range of around 10,000 kilometres (6,200 miles) meaning it might be able to reach east coast US cities like New York, depending on the payload size.


“North Korea seems to have made a logical step forward, as it tries to perfect the technologies to build and field an operationally-viable ICBM that can threaten the mainland United States,” said Michael Elleman, missile defence specialist at the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies.

Kim Dong-Yub, a defence analyst at the Institute for Far Eastern Studies at Kyungnam University, said the North may have succeeded in miniaturising warheads down to 750 kilograms (1,650 pounds).

“If the missile carries a 750 kg payload, its range could be 10,000 kilometres. Taking into account the Earth’s rotation, it means it could reach not only the western cities but New York and Washington as well,” he told AFP.

Tillerson said Pyongyang’s main ally Beijing, together with Moscow, bore responsibility for the growing threat from Pyongyang.

“As the principal economic enablers of North Korea’s nuclear weapon and ballistic missile development programme, China and Russia bear unique and special responsibility for this growing threat to regional and global stability,” he said.

Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida said he held telephone talks with Tillerson and agreed on the need to put “the heaviest possible pressure” on North Korea.


“We confirmed that we will closely cooperate in adopting a fresh UNSC (UN Security Council) resolution, including severe measures, and working on China and Russia,” Kishida told reporters.

In a standard response to the test, Beijing urged restraint by all sides, after the US and South Korea conducted a live-fire exercise using surface-to-surface missiles.

Meanwhile, US President Donald Trump on Friday decried North Korea’s testing of an intercontinental ballistic missile as a “reckless and dangerous” action that will “further isolate” the country.

“The United States condemns this test and rejects the regime’s claim that these tests – and these weapons – ensure North Korea’s security. In reality, they have the opposite effect,” Trump said in a statement.

“By threatening the world, these weapons and tests further isolate North Korea, weaken its economy, and deprive its people.

“The United States will take all necessary steps to ensure the security of the American homeland and protect our allies in the region.”

France on Friday called on fellow members of the UN Security Council to swiftly adopt “strong and additional sanctions” against North Korea for its latest ballistic missile launch.

“Only maximum diplomatic pressure is likely to bring North Korea back to the negotiating table” and stop it from obtaining “an operational and guided nuclear arsenal,” foreign ministry spokeswoman Agnes Romatet-Espagne said in a statement.


“This launch, like the one that North Korea carried out on July 4, shows the determination of the North Korean regime to place the entire international community within range of its missiles,” the statement said.

“The pursuit of the North Korean nuclear and ballistic programme constitutes a growing and unacceptable threat for all.”

China Saturday condemned North Korea’s launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile and urged restraint by all sides after the US and South Korea held a military exercise in response to the test.

“China opposes North Korea’s violations of UN Security Council resolutions and (its actions) contrary to the general aspirations of the international community,” foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said.

Beijing “urged North Korea to abide by UN resolutions and stop taking actions that could worsen the situation,” Geng said in a brief statement on the ministry’s website.

“At the same time, (China) hopes that all parties concerned will exercise caution and avoid aggravating tensions and act together to preserve peace and stability on the peninsula,” he said.

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said on Saturday that the international community must raise the heat on North Korea over its latest ballistic missile launch.

The launch late Friday night, following a recent intercontinental ballistic missile launch, showed that “the threat to Japan’s security has become grave and real,” Abe told reporters after meetings with cabinet members.

“As long as North Korea continues such provocative actions, there is no avoiding maintaining close contact with the international community – starting with the United States, South Korea, China and Russia – and further strengthening the pressure.”

In related news, North Korea’s latest intercontinental ballistic missile test has prompted the South to speed up the deployment of a US missile defence system, Seoul’s defence minister said Saturday, despite strong protests from China.

The US military will also roll out “strategic assets” to the South following the North’s missile test late Friday, Song Young-Moo said.

Parts of the THAAD defence system were brought into the country under the government of ousted president Park Geun-Hye, but new leader Moon Jae-In suspended deployment of the programme last month, citing the need for a new environmental impact assessment.

“We will soon start consultations on the tentative deployment” of the remaining components of the THAAD battery in response to Pyongyang’s most recent test, the defence minister told journalists.

The THAAD battery is composed of six interceptor missile launchers. Two launchers have been tentatively deployed at a golf course-turned-US military base in Seongju County, some 300 kilometres (187.5 miles) south of Seoul.

The THAAD deployment has infuriated China, which has long argued it will destabilise the region.

“China expresses serious concern about the actions of the Republic of Korea,” Beijing’s ministry of foreign affairs said in a statement Saturday.

“China’s resolute opposition to the deployment by the USA of the THAAD system in South Korea is consistent and clear. The THAAD system deployment cannot solve South Korea’s security concerns, neither can it solve the problems facing the Korean peninsula.

“It will only make these problems more complicated.”

Seoul’s defence minister did not provide details on the “strategic assets” the US planned to send to the Korean peninsula and the surrounding area.

The phrase normally refers to high-profile weapons systems, such as stealth bombers and aircraft carriers.

The South’s defence ministry also released a video of a newly developed ballistic missile which it said was one of the world’s “most accurate and powerful” weapons and capable of striking “any target in the North at any time and any place”.


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