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North Korea launched missile ahead of U.S.-China summit

Posted April. 06, 2017 07:21,   

Updated April. 06, 2017 07:30


North Korea tested its missile as a new provocation ahead of the first talks between the U.S. and China taking place in the U.S. on Thursday (local time) since the launch of Donald Trump’s administration.

According to the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the U.S. Pacific Command on Wednesday (Seoul time), North Korea fired its new mid-range ballistic missile “KN-15 (Polaris-2)” from Sinpo, South Hamgyong Province at around 6:42 a.m. Wednesday. The missile was launched at a normal angle of 30-40 degrees and reached as high as 189 kilometers. It travelled about 60 kilometers and fell into waters off east coat of the Korean Peninsula. The performance of the new missile was below the level shown by the missile that Pyongyang tested on February 12.

North Korea’s first KN-15 equipped with new solid engine reached an altitude of 520 kilometers and flew 500 kilometers. “The missile did not get enough thrust due to defects in its engine,” a South Korean government official said. Against the backdrop of North Korea’s new missile showing poorer-than-expected performance just a month after its previous test, some experts have concluded that North Korea failed the first test of the upgraded version of its KN-15.

The isolated regime’s provocation was followed by warnings from South Korea and the U.S. “North Korea’s provocation will only advance the collapse of the North Korean regime,” the Joint Chiefs of Staff said. Instead of warnings, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has suggested adopting military options to North Korea, saying, “The United States has spoken enough about North Korea. We have no further comment.”

North Korea’s new missile failed to meet the anticipation of the public as it had been suggested that Pyongyang’s next provocations would be much more risky like sixth nuclear test. In the meantime, some analysists said that North Korea has calculated the level of provocation this time. In other words, North Korea tried to send a message to China, while the U.S. was consistently pressuring China to play its role, saying, “China must act to resolve nuclear threats stemming from North Korea.”

“China would be reassured that North Korea had not crossed ‘red line’ this time against the increased concerns,” said Jeong Seong-jang, senior research fellow at Department of Unification Strategy Studies of the Sejong Institute. “China would accept some requests for stronger sanctions to North Korea while recommending the U.S. resume talks with North Korea.”

U.S. President Donald Trump has put out a last call to China, saying, “China should make a choice between pressuring North Korea and engaging in a trade war against the U.S.” During a town hall meeting with CEOs on Tuesday (local time), Trump reaffirmed his commitment to pressuring China, saying, “North Korea is becoming a problem of the humanity. A variety of issues, including North Korea, will be discussed during a summit between the U.S. and China.”

Hyo-Ju Son hjson@donga.com · Seung-Heon Lee ddr@donga.com