A picture from North Korean media which purports to show the intercontinental ballistic missile launched on July 4, 2017. Kim Jong-un is apparently standing on the right, in a dark suit. Photo: Supplied
Beijing: North Korea has claimed its first successful launch of an Intercontinental Ballistic Missile, defying a tweet by US President Donald Trump in January that “It won’t happen!”.
Experts estimated that if the missile had been launched at a “normal” angle, instead of the steep trajectory used in the test, it could have flown more than 6000 kilometres, a distance that would see it reach the US mainland.
This range also brings Darwin within reach.
A joint statement from China and Russia, released as presidents Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin met in Moscow, called on North Korea to freeze its nuclear and missile activity, but also called for the United States to halt its military exercises with South Korea on the Korean Peninsula.
The united stance came as relations between China and the US have deteriorated in the past week.
The United States Secretary of State Rex Tillerson held emergency telephone talks with his South Korean counterpart, Kang Kyung-wha, on how to respond to the missile launch, which was still being analysed, South Korea’s foreign ministry said.
The US and South Korea have previously called for China to put more pressure on North Korea.
The North Korean state news agency KCNA said on Tuesday afternoon that an Intercontinental Ballistic Missile was launched at 9am under the supervision of leader Kim Jong-un.
“It flew 39 minutes on orbit, before striking a preset target in open sea,” KCNA reported. North Korean state television released images of the missile and showed the order that Mr Kim had personally signed for the test.
The Hwasong-14 rose 2802 kilometres and flew 933 kilometres.
The hand that signed the paper: North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s signature is shown on the order authorising the launch. Photo: AP
“With its nuclear weapons, the DPRK, as a proud nuclear power with the most powerful ICBM which is able to strike any corner of the world, will fundamentally root out the US’s nuclear war threat and confidently safeguard peace and stability in Korean Peninsula and the region,” the report proclaimed.
Experts in South Korea and Japan had already warned the missile may have been an ICBM.
People watch North Korea’s KRT television announcing the launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile. Photo: Getty Images
South Korean President Moon Jae-in said: “I hope North Korea will not cross the point of no return.”
An ICBM test, or a nuclear test, by North Korea have been widely seen as red lines that would provoke new United Nations Security Council sanctions, or a tougher response from the United States.
People in Tokyo walk past a public TV screen broadcasting news of North Korea’s ballistic missile launch. Photo: AP
The Trump administration had declared the “era of strategic patience was over” with North Korea, and had earlier in the year suggested that it could take military action. However this approached then softened in favour of working with China to enforce sanctions.
The US ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, told NBC in April that an intercontinental ballistic missile would be cause for the US “to do something”.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in at a meeting of the country’s National Security Council on Tuesday. Photo: Handout
“If you see him attack a military base, if you see some sort of intercontinental ballistic missile, then obviously we’re going to do that,” she said.
Mr Moon on Tuesday called for UN Security Council action in response to the new missile test, which came within days of his first meeting with Mr Trump.
North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un. Photo: Xinhua/AP
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said “China is against the DPRK’s launch, which is in violation of the UN Security Council resolutions”. He called for calm.
The ICBM launch came as tensions re-emerge between China and the United States, which last week agreed to a controversial $1.42 billion arms deal with Taiwan.
Mr Trump called Chinese President Xi Jinping on Sunday, with Chinese state media reporting that Mr Xi had told him relations have been affected by “some negative factors”.
China is pushing for a return to dialogue with North Korea, and a halt to South Korean and US military exercises on the Korean Peninsula in return for a North Korean freeze to weapons testing.
Mr Xi met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow on Tuesday, where they said they had agreed to strengthen coordination on North Korea.
Some analysts have suggested North Korea’s acceleration of tests was a way of strengthening its bargaining chips before sitting down at the negotiating table with the US.
Before the confirmation of an ICBM, Mr Trump had tweeted his frustration with North Korea, writing: “Perhaps China will put a heavy move on North Korea and end this nonsense once and for all.”
Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said Australia condemned Pyongyang’s “provocative ballistic tests”, noting they breached numerous resolutions of the UN Security Council.
Euan Graham, director of international security at the Lowy Institute for International Policy, said early analysis indicated Pyongyang had make a major breakthrough in its missile program.
“There is now the capability to reach northern Australia, that will get it to Darwin and further south,” he said.
North Korea just stated that it is in the final stages of developing a nuclear weapon capable of reaching parts of the U.S. It won't happen!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 2, 2017
Dr Graham said the breakthrough raised “embarrassing questions” for US President Donald Trump, given his Twitter declaration in January.
“What they’ve done just this year since February is to demonstrate a new proven missile capability in all four significant ranges,” he said.
Dr Graham said there were “no good unilateral options” for the US.
The Union of Concerned Scientists’ David Wright said it could take North Korea another year to develop a warhead for an ICBM but the regime appeared to be “well on the way”
North Korea launches possibly most successful missile test yet – ICBM 4 Jul, 2017
President Trump reacts to North Korean missile launch
After North Korea missile test, Trump tweets: ‘So much for China working with us’
President Trump on Wednesday seemed to cast aside the idea that the U.S. could work with China to bring an end to the North Korea crisis after the regime’s test of an intercontinental ballistic missile.
Despite suggesting a day earlier that China could “put a heavy move” on Pyongyang to “end this nonsense,” the president on Wednesday highlighted trade between North Korea and China in suggesting the two countries are too close.
“Trade between China and North Korea grew almost 40 percent in the first quarter. So much for China working with us — but we had to give it a try!” Trump tweeted.
Trade between China and North Korea grew almost 40% in the first quarter. So much for China working with us – but we had to give it a try!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 5, 2017
Trump had once seemed enthused about the prospect of working with China, a country he has been particularly hard on during his career as a politician – and when he was a private citizen. He even hinted months ago that Chinese President Xi Jinping could expect a more favorable trade deal in exchange for help engineering a peaceful resolution with dictator Kim Jong Un, whose rogue regime successfully tested an ICBM this week.
But as North Korea has continued testing weapons, China has seemingly tested Trump’s patience.
Minutes before complaining about Beijing’s trade with North Korea, Trump again hinted the crisis could impact a future Chinese trade deal.
“The United States made some of the worst trade deals in world history. Why should we continue these deals with countries that do not help us?” Trump wrote.
The United States made some of the worst Trade Deals in world history.Why should we continue these deals with countries that do not help us?
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 5, 2017
Trump first appeared ready to cast off China as a potential partner in a June 20 tweet: “While I greatly appreciate the efforts of President Xi & China to help with North Korea, it has not worked out. At least I know China tried!”
Trump lashed out at China ahead of his second presidential trip abroad; he takes off for Poland on Wednesday with plans to meet with European allies in that country and in Germany.
North Korea on a violent course. Trump admin gearing up for aggressive action. USA a much different place since Trump replaced Obama.
— Bill O'Reilly (@billoreilly) July 5, 2017