(ATTN: RECASTS lead; ADDS photo; UPDATES throughout with comments, details)
SEOUL, July 5 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's defense ministry on Wednesday confirmed North Korea's test of a new intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), identifying it as an upgraded two-stage version of its KN-17 or Hwasong-12 missile.
During a parliamentary briefing, Defense Minister Han Min-koo said that the ministry put the missile's range at between 7,000 kilometers and 8,000 km but found no definitive evidence to prove its atmospheric re-entry capability.
The minister warned that Pyongyang's reckless provocation will lead to its "self-destruction," calling it a clear violation of U.N. resolutions proscribing any test of ballistic missile technology.
"If the North Korean regime presses ahead with reckless provocations, it would face stern sanctions from the international community and, in the end, its self-destruction," Han told a session of the National Assembly's defense committee.
"We are keeping close tabs on the North's movement in close cooperation with the U.S. (forces) and preparing -- based on the South Korea-U.S. alliance -- to respond sternly to any provocation," he added.
After launching what it calls the Hwangsong-14 missile earlier Tuesday, the North claimed it succeeded in its first ICBM test, with the missile reaching a top altitude of 2,800 kilometers before splashing into the East Sea, some 930 km away from the launch site.
During the briefing, Seoul's ministry refused to definitively conclude the North succeeded in developing an ICBM.
"Considering that the missile was launched from a fixed launch pad, and that we have yet to confirm whether (the missile) has re-entered (the atmosphere), there are still limits for us to conclude that the North has been successful in its ICBM development," the ministry said in the briefing.
As for the reason why the North used the fixed land-based launch pad, the ministry said it was a temporary launch method at a research or development phase and appeared intended to avoid damage to its road-mobile launchers.
Commenting on the North's intentions behind the latest provocation, the ministry pointed out its development schedule based on its technological motive to secure long-range delivery capabilities, a show of force following the South Korea-U.S. summit last week and ahead of the U.S. Independence Day, and its intent to secure an upper hand in future negotiations with South Korea and the United States.
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