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Pentagon calls North’s new rocket ‘dangerous’

July 07,2017
The U.S. Department of Defense said Wednesday that the intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) tested by North Korea Tuesday was “not one we have seen before.”

Pentagon spokesman Jeff Davis, a Navy captain, said in a briefing, “This act demonstrates that North Korea poses a threat to the United States and our allies, and we remain prepared to defend ourselves and our allies and to use the full range of capabilities at our disposal.”

He said that the ICBM was fired from a mobile launcher from an airbase in Panghyon, North Pyongan Province, in western North Korea--a location that Pyongyang has not previously used for a launch--and confirmed that there was a re-entry vehicle on top of it.

He added the Pentagon is “still assessing whether the re-entry vehicle survived,” a crucial element for a long-range missile.

North Korea claimed its Hwasong-14 missile launched Tuesday was capable of carrying a nuclear warhead and that it had successfully tested atmospheric re-entry technology.

Davis said Washington detected the ICBM and tracked it for 37 minutes, which is the longest flight time for any ballistic missile North Korea has launched to date.

He said the missile tested by North Korea was capable of traveling more than 5,500 kilometers (3,400 miles),which puts Alaska into range. ICBMs have a range of over 5,500 kilometers.

This new type of North Korean ICBM was seen as liquid fueled. Solid fuel rockets can be launched more quickly.

Davis condemned the missile launch by North Korea, calling it is escalatory, destabilizing and unlawful.

“It is also dangerous,” he said, pointing out there had been no prior notification from the North.

“This missile flew throughout busy airspace used by commercial airliners. It flew into space; it landed in Japan’s exclusive economic zone in an area that’s used by commercial and fishing vessels. All of this was completely uncoordinated.”

But Davis denied there was a “full-up threat,” which could include the ability to load a miniaturized nuclear warhead onto an ICBM. “But clearly they are working on it.

Davis called a joint military exercise conducted by the United States and South Korea Wednesday following the North’s ICBM test “a system that can be rapidly deployed and engaged.”

He added that it “provides deep-strike precision capability and enables the Korea-U.S. alliance to engage a full array of time-critical targets under all weather conditions.”

The joint exercise utilized the Eighth U.S. Army’s Tactical Missile System and South Korean Hyunmoo II missiles, and the troops fired missiles into waters along South Korea’s east coast in a show of force a day after the North’s ICBM test.

Davis added, “We do have confidence in our ability to defend against the limited threat; the nascent threat that is there.”

He pointed out that the U.S. successfully simulated knocking down a North Korean missile over a month ago.

On May 30, the Pentagon’s Missile Defense Agency successfully tested a long-range interceptor from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California to destroy a mock ICBM target over the Pacific Ocean, seen as a test of U.S. ability to counter a North Korean missile launch.

BY SARAH KIM [kim.sarah@joongang.co.kr]