Hwasong-15 missile “went higher, frankly, than any previous shots,” U.S. Defense Secretary warns
U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said Wednesday that North Korea’s new intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) can essentially reach “anywhere in the world.”
According to Mattis, the Hwasong-15 missile “went higher, frankly, than any previous shots.”
“The bottom line is, it’s a continued effort to build a threat — a ballistic missile threat that endangers world peace, regional peace and certainly the United States,” Mattis said.
The new ICBM, launched after a more than two month missile test hiatus, reached an altitude of roughly 4,475 km (2,780 miles) and traveled 950 km (590 miles) during its 53-minute flight.
An official statement released by Pyongyang indicated that the missile, allegedly capable of delivering a “super large heavy-warhead,” brings North Korea to its goal “of the completion of the rocket weaponry system development set by the DPRK.”
“After watching the successful launch of the new type ICBM Hwasong-15, Kim Jong Un declared with pride that now we have finally realized the great historic cause of completing the state nuclear force, the cause of building a rocket power,” the statement, read on state-run broadcaster KCTV, said.
South Korea swiftly responded to the Hwasong-15 test with a “precision strike” missile exercise.
In an address to the media, U.S. President Donald Trump made brief mention of the launch, stating simply, “We will take care of it.”
President Trump also held separate phone conversations with South Korean President Moon Jae-in and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to discuss both the launch and Pyongyang’s advancing capabilities.
In a phone call with Chinese President Xi Jinping, Trump reportedly pledged to issue a new wave of “major sanctions” on North Korea.
The missile test follows President Trump’s redesignation of North Korea as a state sponsor of terror and his tour of Asia.
U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson pressed in a statement following the launch that “diplomatic options remain viable and open, for now.”
North Korean allies Russia and China similarly issued stern remarks concerning Pyongyang’s latest test.
“China expresses its grave concerns about and opposition to North Korea’s missile launch activities,” foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said in a press briefing.
“China wants North Korea to stop any action that escalates tension on the Korean Peninsula.”
Speaking with reporters Wednesday, Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov condemned the launch as a “provocative step” that serves to escalate tensions on the Korean Peninsula.
“No doubt, another missile launch is a provocative step, which sparks a further rise in tensions, and which moves us away from beginning to settle the crisis,” Peskov said. “We condemn this launch and hope that all the respective sides will manage to keep calm, which is very necessary to prevent the worst-case scenario on the Korean Peninsula.”
With Washington D.C. and nearly the rest of the world now potentially in range of a nuclear strike, some experts are calling on the U.S. to begin negotiations with Pyongyang without conditions of denuclearization.
“[D]iplomacy is worth the risk of failure, because to not engage them just gives them time to scale up,” Melissa Hanham, a senior research associate at California’s Middlebury Institute of International Studies, said on Twitter Wednesday.
In comments to CNN, a North Korean official repeated previous remarks stating that Pyongyang would only enter into negotiations once it has proven its nuclear capabilities.
“Before we can engage in diplomacy with the Trump administration, we want to send a clear message that the DPRK has a reliable defensive and offensive capability to counter any aggression from the United States,” the official said.
North Korea hinted in September that the next step in its weapons program could be an atmospheric nuclear test over the Pacific Ocean.