Source: Daily Mail

President Donald Trump called an emergency meeting on the Fourth of July to formulate a ‘measured response’ to North Korea‘s first intercontinental ballistic missile test, amid fears it could reach as far as Alaska.

North Korea declared Tuesday that it had finally achieved its dream of building an intercontinental ballistic missile, saying it would ‘fundamentally put an end to the US nuclear war threat and blackmail’.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson later confirmed the latest missile test was with an intercontinental ballistic missile.

And Tillerson says that’s a new escalation of the threat posed to the United States and the world by North Korea.

President Donald Trump has called an emergency meeting on the Fourth of July to formulate a ‘measured response’ to North Korea’s first intercontinental ballistic missile test, amid fears it could reach as far as Alaska

The launch, which came as the United States prepared to mark its Independence Day, triggered a Twitter outburst from Trump who urged China to ‘put a heavy move’ on North Korea to ‘end this nonsense once and for all’.

US military and national security officials are now holding the unexpected meeting to determine if leader Kim Jong-un‘s claim his country fired an intercontinental missile is true, Trump administration sources told CNN.

The US has also requested a closed-door meeting of the United Nations Security Council on North Korea’s latest missile launch, a spokesman for the US mission to the United Nations says.

The spokesman said the meeting of the 15-member council was likely to be scheduled for Wednesday.

If data and intelligence proves the ICBM was launched, officials say Trump would potentially approve a ‘measured response’ to deal with North Korea.

Potential responses include sending additional troops to the region and possibly more sanctions.

North Korea has long sought to build a rocket capable of delivering an atomic warhead to the United States – something Trump has vowed ‘won’t happen’.

In an announcement of the missile test, North Korean officials called the launch, which leader Kim Jong-un supervised, a ‘glistening miracle’.

The Hwasong-14 ICBM reached an altitude of about 1,741 miles (2,802 kilometres) and flew 579 miles (933 kilometres) for 39 minutes before hitting a target area on the sea off the east coast, according to North Korea.

Washington, Japan and South Korea gave similar figures, and US experts said the trajectory implied the device could reach Alaska.

North Korea is subject to multiple sets of United Nations sanctions over its atomic and missile programs, which it says it needs to protect itself against a possible invasion.

It regularly issues bloodcurdling threats against its ‘imperialist enemy’ Washington, and has long sought a rocket capable of delivering a warhead to the continental United States.

Russia and China joined diplomatic forces on Tuesday and called on North Korea, South Korea and the US to sign up to a Chinese de-escalation plan designed to defuse tensions around Pyongyang’s missile program.

The plan would see North Korea suspend its ballistic missile program and the US and South Korea simultaneously call a moratorium on large-scale missile exercises, both moves aimed at paving the way for multilateral talks.

The initiative was set out in a joint statement from the Russian and Chinese foreign ministries issued shortly after President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping held wide-ranging talks in the Kremlin.

Russia and China both share a land border with North Korea and have been involved in past efforts to try to calm tensions between Pyongyang and the West.

Moscow and Beijing used the same joint declaration to call on Washington to immediately halt deployment of its THAAD anti-missile system in South Korea, a move Washington says is necessitated by the North Korean missile threat.

North Korea’s missile launch on Tuesday prompted control specialist Jeffrey Lewis to respond on Twitter: ‘That’s it. It’s an ICBM. An ICBM that can hit Anchorage not San Francisco, but still.’

David Wright, of the Union of Concerned Scientists, wrote on the organisation’s allthingsnuclear blog that the available figures implied the missile ‘could reach a maximum range of roughly 6,700 km on a standard trajectory’.

‘That range would not be enough to reach the lower 48 states or the large islands of Hawaii, but would allow it to reach all of Alaska.’

The test-fire was conducted at the highest angle and did not have any negative impact on the safety of neighboring countries,’ announcer Ri Chun-Hee, who previously told her loyal viewers of the deaths of the country’s founder Kim Il-Sung and his son Kim Jong-Il, said.

‘As the dignified nuclear power who possesses the strongest intercontinental ballistic rocket which is capable of hitting any part of the world along with the nuclear weapons, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) will fundamentally terminate the US nuclear war threats and blackmail and credibly protect the peace and stability of the Korean Peninsula and the region,’ she added.

‘Kim Jong Un, Supreme Leader of our party, state and the army, personally observed the process of the test-launch in field and solemnly declared before the world its shining success,’ the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said in an accompanying article.

The report contradicted South Korean and US officials who earlier said Tuesday’s launch was of an intermediate-range missile.

Russia has also said it believes the missile was medium range.

‘The missile reached an altitude of 535 kilometres (330 miles) and flew 510 kilometres before falling into the central part of the Sea of Japan,’ the defense ministry said in a statement to Russian news agencies.

‘The parametric flight data of the ballistic object corresponds to the tactical and technical characteristics of a medium-range ballistic missile,’ it said, adding that it did ‘not present’ any danger to Russian territory.

Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga declined to comment on whether Japan thinks it was an ICBM, and South Korea’s Defense Ministry said it was analyzing whether the North’s statement was accurate.

The launch seems designed to send a political warning to Washington and its chief Asian allies, Seoul and Tokyo, even as it allows North Korean scientists a chance to perfect their still-incomplete nuclear missile program.

The test may be the North’s most successful yet; a weapons analyst says the missile could be powerful enough to reach Alaska.

The ‘unidentified ballistic missile’ was fired from a site in North Phyongan province, the South’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement, and came down in the East Sea, the Korean name for the Sea of Japan.  

US Pacific Command confirmed the test and said it was a land-based, intermediate range missile that flew for 37 minutes.

It was estimated to have reached an altitude that ‘greatly exceeded’ 1553 miles (2,500 kilometres), Japan said.

The device came down in the Sea of Japan within the country’s exclusive economic zone, Tokyo’s defense ministry said in a statement, waters extending 200 nautical miles from its coast.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told reporters: ‘This launch clearly shows that the threat has grown.’

Abe, who talked by phone with Trump on Monday, said the two leaders plan to seek further co-operation from world leaders when they attend the G20 summit in Germany.

British foreign minister Boris Johnson said on Tuesday that the international community must work harder on North Korea, describing Pyongyang’s latest missile test as an example of the grave danger it poses to neighboring countries.

‘The international community must redouble its efforts to impose a price on this regime, which strains every nerve and sinew to build nuclear weapons and launch illegal missiles, even as the people of North Korea endure starvation and poverty,’ Johnson said in an emailed statement.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in said that the North’s actions could have serious consequences.

‘If North Korea crossed the red line without responding to the peaceful approach to the denuclearization on the Korean peninsula which agreed by the US and South Korean leader, we are not sure of the consequences,’ Moon said in a statement, in which he also called on China to put more pressure on Pyongyang.

South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said the launch was a ‘direct challenge’ to international peace, though it did not refer to the missile as an ICBM.

‘…the US and the South Korean intelligence authorities are conducting the detailed analysis on whether [the launched missile] has the capability of so-called intercontinental ballistic missile as the North claimed,’ the statement said.

‘Our military strongly condemns Kim Jong Un regime’s vain delusions and reckless provocations, and warn [the North] to immediately cease the act of creating tension and anxiety on the Korean Peninsula and the international community,’ it added.

‘If North Korea ignores our warnings and continues the provocations obstinately, we clearly warn that Kim Jong Un regime will be on the verge of destruction (or ruin).’

Leaders in China have also condemned Tuesday’s test launch in North Korea.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told reporters Tuesday that his country was collecting information about North Korea’s latest launch, conducted earlier in the day.

He said that China urges ‘the North Korean side to stop taking actions that violate Security Council resolutions and to create the necessary conditions for the resumption of talks.’

The spokesman also defended China’s efforts to try to resolve the North Korean nuclear issue. He said that China’s role is indispensable, and that its contribution in that regard is recognized.

‘We hope all relevant parties can exercise restraint, avoid taking actions that may escalate tensions, and make efforts to bring the issue back to peaceful settlement through dialogue and consultation,’ Geng said.

China’s UN ambassador, Liu Jieyi, warned on Monday that further escalation of already high tensions with North Korea risks getting out of control ‘and the consequences would be disastrous’.

On a trip to Moscow, Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin agreed on Monday to ‘jointly push for a proper settlement of the (Korean) peninsula issue via dialogue and negotiation’, according to the official Xinhua news agency.

Meanwhile, North Korean citizens in the capital are praising their country’s launch of what it called its first intercontinental ballistic missile.

Soon after the authoritarian government announced Tuesday that it had fired the missile that morning, a 38-year-old Pyongyang man named Ri Song Gil said his country ‘can attack anywhere in the world’.

He added, ‘Now, the time when the US could threaten the world with nuclear weapons has passed away’.

Twenty-seven-year-old Kim Hye Ok calls the launch ‘extremely delightful news’ and says North Korea ‘will march forward along our own way’ despite international sanctions.

Still pictures of the launch showed a missile lifting off the ground, spewing a flame and clouds against a backdrop of green hills.

Other photos showed Kim, in a striped Mao suit, shading his eyes with a raised hand and looking up at the sky, or sitting behind a desk looking through a pair of binoculars.

Hours after the North launched a ballistic missile that flew more than 900 kilometres on Tuesday, the North’s state media said it would make an ‘important announcement’.

‘Important announcements’ were made twice last year, one in January when the North claimed it had successfully tested a hydrogen bomb and the other in February when it said it had successfully put a satellite into orbit.

Lee Illwoo, a Seoul-based military commentator, said the missile traveled for a far longer period of time than if it would have been fired at a normal angle.

A North Korean scud-type missile, with a range of 800-900 kilometres, would land in its target site within ten minutes if fired at a standard angle of 45 degrees.

Lee said it’s likely that North Korea fired either Hwasong-12 missile or a solid-fuel Pukguksong-2, both of which were tested in May.

On May 14, North Korea launched the Hwasong-12 missile, which its state media later said flew as high as 1,310 miles (2,111 kilometres) and landed in a targeted area in the ocean about 490 miles (787 kilometres) from the launch site.

On May 21, North Korea also tested the Pukguksong-2, which traveled about 310 miles (500 kilometres).

North Korea has a reliable arsenal of shorter-range missiles, but is still trying to perfect its longer-range missiles.

Some analysts believe North Korea has the technology to arm its short-range missiles with nuclear warheads, but it’s unclear if it has mastered the technology needed to build an atomic bomb that can fit on a long-range missile.

The newly developed ICBM Hwasong-14 was launched, and this took place on July 4, 2017 at 9am, and flew for 39 minutes.

‘It flew from a northwestern city, and flew precisely following the predicted trajectory. It also reached precisely the targeted point in Chosun (Korean) air.

‘Our intercontinental ballistic rocket did not at all bring negative impacts to any nearby country.

‘Our intercontinental ballistic rocket reached a maximum altitude of 2,802 km, and flew for 933 kilometres.

‘Our dear leader KJU was there to witness the glistening miracle.’

‘The success of the last stage of becoming a nuclear power state is developing an intercontinental ballistic missile. Hwason 14 shows the unwithering power of our state, our strong independence and defense in the world and will be marked as a significant mark in our history.

‘North Korea, as a nuclear state capable of reaching any country in the world with our intercontinental ballistic rocket, will be able to root out the U.S’s nuclear program once and for all, and bring peace and secure safety to the Chosun (Korean) peninsula.’

The isolated, impoverished country has made great progress in its missile capabilities since the ascension to power of Kim, who has overseen three nuclear tests and multiple rocket launches.

In response to the launch but before the announcement, Trump asked on Twitter: ‘Does this guy have anything better to do with his life?’

He added: ‘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!’

The United Nations has imposed multiple sets of sanctions on Pyongyang over its weapons programs, which retorts that it needs nuclear arms to defend itself against the threat of invasion.

Just last week South Korean President Moon and Trump met for the first time and vowed to oppose North Korea’s development of atomic weapons.

Washington, South Korea’s security guarantor, has more than 28,000 troops in the country to defend it from its communist neighbor, and fears of conflict reached a peak earlier this year as the Trump administration suggested military action was an option under consideration.

The Korean Peninsula has been divided between the American-backed South and the authoritarian North since the 1950-53 Korean War.

Worries have increased as the North’s leader Kim pushes to expand his nuclear arsenal and develop ballistic missiles that can carry nuclear warheads.

Russia and China have agreed a joint position on North Korea designed to defuse tensions around its missile program and both want Washington to halt deployment of a missile shield in South Korea, the Russian Foreign Ministry said on Tuesday.

Moscow and Beijing had agreed on the need for a simultaneous freezing of North Korea’s missile and nuclear program and large-scale military exercises by the United States and South Korea, the ministry said in a statement.

The statement was released after President Vladimir Putin held talks with visiting Chinese President Xi Jinping in the Kremlin.

The same statement said Moscow and Beijing wanted the United States to immediately halt its deployment of the THAAD anti-missile system to South Korea, a move Washington says is necessitated by the North Korean missile threat.

The statement said Washington was using North Korea as a pretext to expand its military infrastructure in Asia and risked upsetting the strategic balance of power in the area.

‘The deployment … of THAAD will cause serious harm to the strategic security interests of regional states, including Russia and China,’ the statement said.

‘Russia and China oppose the deployment of such systems and call on the relevant countries to immediately halt and cancel the process of deployment.’

Tuesday’s launch is the first by the North since a June 8 test of a new type of cruise missile that Pyongyang says is capable of striking United States and South Korean warships ‘at will.’

Since taking office on May 10, Moon has tried to improve strained ties with North Korea, but the North has continued its missile tests. Pyongyang says it needs nuclear weapons and powerful missiles to cope with what it calls rising US military threats.

There has also been anger in the United States over the death of Otto Warmbier, an American student detained in North Korea for around 18 months before he was returned home in a coma in June.

Trump has been pinning his hopes on China – North Korea’s main diplomatic ally – to bring pressure to bear on Pyongyang.

Last week he declared that Beijing’s efforts had failed, but returned to the idea on Twitter following the launch: ‘Perhaps China will put a heavy move on North Korea and end this nonsense once and for all!’

But a former foreign policy adviser to Hillary Clinton warned that his comments risked undermining the credibility of both the US deterrent, and its assurances to its allies in Seoul and Tokyo.

She added: ‘Picking a twitter fight with a nuclear-armed dictator is not wise – this is not reality TV anymore.’