Another Missile Test from Defiant North Korea

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US warship arrives within “striking distance” of North Korea while another missile test fails.

  • Escalating tension as North Korea defies the world and US battleship-ready
  • Tillerson warns threat of nuclear attack on Seoul or Tokyo real
  • North Korea threatens to fly ballistic rockets into US at any slight sign of provocation
  • Tokyo subway system temporarily halted service after warning of missile launch

In defiance of world pressure, North Korea test-fired a ballistic missile on Saturday. It appeared to have broken up within minutes of taking off – the fourth consecutive failed missile test since March.

The South Korean military said the missile reached an altitude of 44 miles before disintegrating. It said the launch was a clear violation of UN resolutions and warned the North not to act rashly.

Kim Dong-yub, an expert at Kyungnam University’s Institute of Far Eastern Studies in Seoul, said North Korea might have got the data it wanted with the missile’s short flight, then blown it up to avoid antagonising China, which warned Pyongyang against further provocation.

In February, North Korea rattled world powers when it successfully launched a new intermediate-range ballistic missile that it said could carry a nuclear weapon. It also successfully tested ballistic missiles on Mar 6. It is not clear why the missile tests since then have failed.

The test came as the USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier group arrived in waters near the Korean peninsula, and within “striking distance” of North Korea. The warship will join the USS Michigan, a guided missile submarine that docked in South Korea on Tuesday.

Only a day earlier, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had warned that failure to curb Pyongyang’s nuclear and ballistic missile programmes could lead to “catastrophic consequences”.

He reiterated the Trump administration’s position that all options were on the table if Pyongyang persisted with its nuclear and missile development.

Reuters quoted Tillerson as saying, “The threat of a nuclear attack on Seoul, or Tokyo, is real, and it’s only a matter of time before North Korea develops the capability to strike the US mainland. Failing to act now on the most pressing security issue in the world may bring catastrophic consequences.”

In a commentary on Saturday, Rodong Sinmun, the official newspaper of North Korea’s ruling Workers’ Party said that the dispatch of Carl Vinson to the waters off the Korean peninsula is a “reckless action of the war maniacs aimed at an extremely dangerous nuclear war”.

“Inter-continental ballistic rockets will fly into the United States if the US shows any slight sign of provocation,” the newspaper said.

President Donald Trump said the launch was an affront to China, the North’s sole main ally.

“North Korea disrespected the wishes of China and its highly respected President when it launched, though unsuccessfully, a missile today. Bad!” Trump said in a post on Twitter after the launch.

On Thursday, Trump praised Chinese leader Xi Jinping for “trying very hard” on North Korea but warned a “major, major conflict” was possible.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe condemned the test as a grave threat to the international order, urging Russia to play a constructive role in dealing with North Korea.

“Japan is watching how China will act in regard to North Korea,” he told reporters in London.

This morning, one of Tokyo’s major subways systems halted all lines for 10 minutes after receiving warning of a North Korean missile launch. Service was resumed after it was clear that there was no threat to Japan. The temporary suspension affected 13,000 passengers.