Rocket 'guided by precision system' in latest test

A day after it's most recent missile launch, North Korea announces it was testing a new precision guidance system and mobile launch vehicle, as it continues to develop its nuclear weapons programme.

SEOUL • North Korea's latest ballistic missile test involved a new rocket with a precision guidance system that landed within 7m of its target, its official KCNA news agency said.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un oversaw the launch early on Monday from the country's east coast, and ordered the development of more powerful strategic weapons, KCNA added.

Preparations before the firing were more automated than for the previous Hwasong rockets, North Korea's name for its Scud-class missiles, the news agency said, adding that this "markedly" reduced the launching time.

The accuracy claims, if true, would potentially represent a significant advancement in North Korea's missile programme.

"We can't prove if it's bluffing, but North Korea is basically saying it can hit the target right in the centre, which is scary news for the US," said Professor Suh Kune Y., at Seoul National University's department of nuclear engineering. "If true, that means they're in the final stage of missile development."

KCNA said Mr Kim called for the continued development of more powerful strategic weapons in multiple phases in accordance with its timetable to defend the North against the United States.

Monday's missile first appeared at an April 15 military parade celebrating the birth anniversary of North Korea's founder Kim Il Sung, KCNA said. It flew 450km towards Japan, according to South Korean military officials, with the government in Tokyo saying it may have reached waters in Japan's exclusive economic zone.

 

Its launch - the ninth this year - came two days after the Group of Seven (G-7) nations pledged to "strengthen measures" aimed at prompting North Korea to cease nuclear and ballistic missile tests. South Korea's President Moon Jae In seeks engagement, while US President Donald Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe take a harder line.

KCNA said North Korea will not be swayed by pressure from the Group of Seven.

"The G-7 summit is a place where those nuclear- and missile-haves put their heads together to discuss how to pressure weak countries and those incurring their displeasure," the news agency said.

Japan said the missile landed about 300km from the Oki islands off its west coast.

Mr Kim may have deliberately fired it towards waters that are claimed by both Japan and South Korea to foment discord between the nations and undermine cooperation with the US, according to Dr Jeffrey Lewis, director of the East Asia Nonproliferation Program at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey.

Mr Trump, who has sought more help from China to rein in its neighbour and ally, said on Twitter that "North Korea has shown great disrespect for their neighbor, China, by shooting off yet another ballistic missile...but China is trying hard!"

Beijing also expressed its opposition to the test.

All sides should "ease tensions on the Korean Peninsula as soon as possible and bring the Peninsula issue back onto the right track of peaceful dialogue", China's foreign ministry said.

BLOOMBERG, REUTERS

WATCH THE VIDEO

North Korea warns of 'bigger gift package' for the US. str.sg/4L3w

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 31, 2017, with the headline 'Rocket 'guided by precision system' in latest test'. Print Edition | Subscribe