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Seoul: North Korea missile program progressing faster than expected



South Korea’s defense minister says that North Korea’s latest missile test was detected by the recently installed THAAD missile system.

On Tuesday, Han Min-koo told the country’s parliament that the Pyongyang’s missile was successful in flight, adding that “It is considered an IRBM (intermediate range ballistic missile) of enhanced caliber.”

He noted that the North’s missile program was progressing faster than expected, adding that the US-deployed THAAD anti-missile system had detected the launch, the first tacit confirmation of the system’s use.

North Korea launched an intermediate-range ballistic missile from the northwestern city of Kusong at around 5:30 a.m. (2030 GMT Saturday) and it flew 787 kilometers (489 miles) before landing in the sea between North Korea and Japan, the South Korean military said in a statement.

The installation of THAAD began last month amid rising tensions over North Korea’s ballistic and nuclear tests. China and Russia have criticized the deployment of THAAD, saying it would significantly affect the balance of power in the region and would lead to more instability. Washington and Seoul had agreed on the installation in the summer of 2016.

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US to ‘call out’ countries supporting N Korea

Following a closed door UNSC meeting on Tuesday, the US ambassador the United Nations, Nikki Haley, said China could be persuaded to impose fresh UN sanctions on North Korea.

“The conversations that I have had … in dealing with Beijing is that if (North Korea) did something else and if it looked to be long-range, which this does, and if it looks like it is proactively leaning toward an ICBM, which it does, then we would take action,” she said.   

“I believe that China will stay true to that and we will come together on how we’re going to do that…We have not seen anything from them in the past week but we are encouraging them to continue moving forward,” she added.

US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley votes at the Security Council meeting at the United Nations Headquarters in New York, US on April 12, 2017.

“If you are a country that is supplying or supporting North Korea, we will call you out on it. We will make sure that everyone knows who you are and we will target those sanctions towards you as well,” she added.

Haley made the announcement one after the United Nations Security Council demanded that North Korea halt its nuclear and ballistic missile tests.

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The North, already under an array of sanctions for its missile and nuclear programs, says it is developing arms as deterrence against the US threat. North Korea has also said that it would not abandon its missile and nuclear programs unless the US ended its hostility toward Pyongyang.

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