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N Korea confirms missile test capable of striking Guam

SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA (AP) – North Korea confirmed yesterday it test-launched an intermediate-range ballistic missile capable of reaching the United States (US) territory of Guam, the North’s most significant weapon launch in years, as Washington plans steps to show its commitment to its Asian allies.

Sunday’s launch could be a prelude to bigger provocations by North Korea such as nuclear and long-range missile tests that pose a direct threat to the US mainland, as the North tries to further pressure the Biden administration to win sanction relief or international recognition as a legitimate nuclear state.

The official Korean Central News Agency said the purpose of the test was verifying the overall accuracy of the Hwasong-12 missile that is being deployed in its military.

KCNA published two sets of combination photos – one showing the missile rising from a launcher and soaring into space and the other showing North Korea and nearby areas that it said were photographed from space by a camera installed at the missile’s warhead. The Associated Press decided not to use the images because the authenticity of the photos couldn’t be verified.

A missile expert and honorary research fellow at South Korea’s Science and Technology Policy Institute Lee Choon Geun said he thinks the photos were taken from space – especially when the missile was soaring to its apogee, though he cannot independently prove there was no adjustment on the images.

People watch a TV showing an image of North Korea’s missile launch at the Seoul Railway Station in Seoul, South Korea. PHOTO: AP

While it’s rare to place a camera on a weapon, Lee said North Korea likely wanted to demonstrate its technological advancement to both foreign and domestic audiences.

North Korea said the missile was launched toward waters off its east coast on a high angle to prevent flying over other countries. It gave no further details.

According to South Korean and Japanese assessments, the missile flew about 800 kilometres and reached a maximum altitude of 2,000 kilometres before landing in waters between the Korean Peninsula and Japan.

The reported flight details make it the most powerful missile North Korea has tested since 2017, when the country launched Hwasong-12 and longer-range missiles in a torrid run of weapons firings to acquire an ability to launch nuclear strikes on US military bases in Northeast Asia and the Pacific and even the American homeland.

The Hwasong-12 missile is a nuclear-capable ground-to-ground weapon with a maximum range of 4,500 kilometres when it’s fired on a standard trajectory. It’s a distance sufficient to reach Guam, home to US military bases that in past times of tensions sent advanced warplanes to the Korean Peninsula in shows of force.

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