SEOUL • North Korea has, for the first time, released photographs of earth, in an effort to show off its ability in atmospheric re-entry, a day after it test-fired another medium-range ballistic missile.
The photos were reportedly taken with a camera installed on the ballistic missile when it was entering the atmosphere, the Yonhap news agency said yesterday.
Technology for atmospheric re-entry is a key element in developing an intercontinental ballistic missile as it needs to withstand heat and pressure when it re-enters the atmosphere from space, reported The Korea Herald.
Pyongyang has carried out two atomic tests and dozens of missile launches since the start of last year in its quest to develop a missile capable of delivering a nuclear warhead to the continental United States. The Pentagon is sceptical about whether Pyongyang has mastered the re-entry technology needed to ensure that the missile survives returning to earth's atmosphere.
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"The disclosure of the photos seems to be intended to show off its confidence in its atmospheric re- entry technology to the world," said senior researcher Yang Uk of Seoul-based think-tank Korea Defence Forum, as quoted by Yonhap.
The missile tested on Sunday took off from a location near Pukchang, north-east of Pyongyang, the North Korean capital. The Pukguksong-2 missile flew 500km, reaching an altitude of 560km before falling in waters off the country's east coast, the South Korean military said. It had a shorter range than the three previous missiles tested.
The North's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) quoted North Korean leader Kim Jong Un as saying that the Pukguksong-2 met all the required technical specifications and should now be mass-produced and deployed to the strategic battle unit of the Korean People's Army.
The KCNA added that the test verified the reliability and accuracy of the solid-fuel engine's operation and stage separation, as well as the late-stage guidance of the nuclear warhead that was recorded by a device mounted on the warhead.
A total of 58 colour photos of the earth were made public yesterday by Rodong Sinmun, the official newspaper of the North's ruling Workers' Party, Yonhap reported.
"Viewing the images of earth being sent real-time from the camera mounted on the ballistic missile, Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un said it feels grand to look at earth from the rocket we launched and the entire world looks so beautiful," the KCNA reported.
Seoul to be 'flexible' with North
SEOUL • South Korea's Unification Ministry said yesterday that it will flexibly review major inter-Korean issues such as civilian exchanges with North Korea.
Unification Ministry spokesman Lee Duk Haeng said that the main inter-Korean issues, including civilian exchanges, will be flexibly reviewed within the limits of the framework of the international community's sanctions on the North.
Mr Lee said the current severing of inter-Korean relations is not desirable, considering the goal of stability on the peninsula.
South Korean President Moon Jae In's predecessor, Park Geun Hye, had championed continued humanitarian aid to North Korea regardless of the political situation, but the aid has been severed since Pyongyang's fourth nuclear test in January last year.
Now that Mr Moon has taken office, expectations are running high for the resumption of humanitarian aid and civilian exchanges between the two sides.
Yonhap said it was the first time the North has released earth photos taken from a launched missile.
The United Nations Security Council is due to meet today behind closed doors to discuss the latest test, at the request of the US, Japan and South Korea.
China has continued to call for dialogue to ease tensions on the Korean peninsula, reported Agence France-Presse.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Hua Chunying said at a regular briefing yesterday: "The (UN) Security Council has clear stipulations prohibiting (North Korea) against using ballistic missiles and China opposes this as well... We urge all sides to avoid provoking each other and continue on the right track of dialogue and consultation."
While the North boasted about its earth photos, the South's military said additional analysis is needed to verify Pyongyang's claim of advances in terms of mastering the re-entry technology for the warhead, said Reuters.