North Korea said it successfully test-launched its first intercontinental ballistic missile Tuesday, contradicting South Korean and U.S. officials who earlier said it was an intermediate-range ballistic missile.
The firing of the missile, called the Hwasong-14, was watched by the North's leader Kim Jong Un, who signed an order for the launch, the official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported.
"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 pursuing the dual-track policy of nuclear and economic development," the KCNA reported.
Japan’s government said the missile was believed to have landed in Japan’s exclusive economic zone in the Sea of Japan but no damage to ships or aircraft in the area has been reported.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told reporters it was fired around 9:40 a.m. Tuesday and flew for 40 minutes before landing in the Sea of Japan within waters where Japan claims economic rights.
The South's Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement that the launch was made from North Korea's North Phyongan province, The Associated Press and South Korea's Yonhap news agency said. The joint chief's statement says the launch was immediately reported to South Korean President Moon Jae-in, the AP reported.
President Trump condemned the missile launch on Twitter and presumably called out North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in the process.
Tensions between the U.S. and North Korea have reached heightened levels as North works to build a nuclear-tipped missile that could reach the United States.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told reporters that China was gathering information about the latest launch.
He said China urges “the North Korean side to stop taking actions that violate Security Council resolutions and to create the necessary conditions for the resumption of talks.”
People in the North Korean capital Pyongyang praised the launch.
Ri Song Gil, 38, said the country “can attack anywhere in the world. Now, the time when the U.S. could threaten the world with nuclear weapons has passed away.”
Kim Hye Ok, 27, added that the launch was “extremely delightful news.”
The Korean Peninsula has been divided between the American-backed South and the authoritarian North since the 1950-53 Korean War. Worries have increased as the North’s leader Kim Jong Un pushes to expand his nuclear arsenal and develop ballistic missiles that can carry nuclear warheads.
Tuesday’s launch is the first by the North since a June 8 test of a new type of cruise missile that Pyongyang says is capable of striking U.S. and South Korean warships “at will.”
North Korea has just launched another missile. Does this guy have anything better to do with his life? Hard to believe that South Korea.....— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 4, 2017
"North Korea has just launched another missile. Does this guy have anything better to do with his life?" Trump said on Twitter, adding: "Hard to believe that South Korea and Japan will put up with this much longer. Perhaps China will put a heavy move on North Korea and end this nonsense once and for all!
The U.S. Pacific Command confirmed it detected an intermediate range ballistic missile near the Panghyon Airfield for 37 minutes as it landed in the Sea of Japan. The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) said the missile launch did not pose a threat to North America.
Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe sharply criticized North Korea for the launch. "The latest launch clearly showed that the threat is growing," Abe said.
Abe, who talked by phone with Trump on Monday, said the two leaders plan to seek cooperation from world leaders when they attend a G20 summit in Germany later this week.
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