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(2nd LD) N.K. claims it successfully launched ICBM

All Headlines 16:54 July 04, 2017

(ATTN: UPDATES with more info, background, photos throughout)

SEOUL, July 4 (Yonhap) -- North Korea on Tuesday announced the successful launch of its first intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), the latest in a series of provocative acts that defy international condemnation.

North Korea test-fired the missile, called the Hwasong-14, under the observance of its leader Kim Jong-un, according to the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA). Kim signed an order for the test-fire, it added.

It said the missile reached an altitude of 2,802 kilometers and flew 933 km for 39 minutes before hitting a target in the East Sea.

"The success of the ICBM launch at its first trial is the final gateway to completing our nuclear force. It marked a phenomenal event in our history as we are seeking the simultaneous pursuit of nuclear and economic development," the KCNA said.

North Korea called itself a "full-fledged nuclear power" that possesses ICBMs that can hit targets in any place in the world.

This photo taken on July 4, 2017, shows South Korean citizens watching an announcement by North Korea over its claimed successful launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile. (Yonhap)

A South Korean military source said that the missile is presumed to have reached an altitude of more than 2,300 km. If launched at a standard angle, it may have traversed some 6,000 km.

The U.S. military characterized it as a "land-based, intermediate-range" missile, but the North announced its the purported success of its ICBM.

North Korea's leader said in his New Year's message that the country has entered the final stage of preparing to launch an ICBM capable of hitting the U.S. mainland. The North has been working on developing a nuclear-tipped ICBM.

The missile test marked the sixth provocation since President Moon Jae-in took office in May. He strongly condemned North Korea's reckless provocation and vowed a stern response when he chaired an emergency meeting of the National Security Council (NSC).

Experts have said that North Korea's nuclear and missile programs are advancing, but it may be years away from mastering the technology needed for ICBM development.

They said that mastering warhead miniaturization, as well as re-entry technologies, have long been considered two major challenges Pyongyang should overcome if it wants to develop a nuclear ICBM capable of striking the continental U.S.

If the North's claim is true, the move is likely to dampen Moon's will to improve strained inter-Korean relations and also spark more tension in its ties with the United States.

Moon vowed to take a dual-track approach of denuclearizing North Korea and seeking dialogue and engagement with Pyongyang. He seeks South Korea's leading role in creating conditions for better inter-Korean ties.

North Korea has remained negative toward Moon's rapprochement approach, saying that dialogue cannot go together with sanctions.

The missile launch came on the heels of the summit between Moon and his U.S. counterpart Donald Trump.

They agreed last week to keep applying sanctions against the North's nuclear and missile provocations but also left the door open for dialogue "under the right circumstances."

Kim Han-kwon, a professor at Korea National Diplomatic Academy, said that the missile test is likely to considerably put a dent on South Korea's aspirations for dialogue with the North.

"As North Korea's ICBM launch means it effectively crossed the red line, sanctions and pressure would be applied on the North," said Koh Yu-hwan, a professor at Dongguk University. "Resolving its nuclear issue is likely to considerably take time."

Pyongyang has carried out five nuclear tests since 2006 and it test-fired about 30 ballistic missiles last year alone.

This image captured from footage aired by North Korea's state TV station on July 4, 2017 shows the launch of what North Korea claims to be an intercontinental ballistic missile, known as the Hwasong-14. (For Use Only in the Republic of Korea. No Redistribution) (Yonhap)

sooyeon@yna.co.kr
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