North Korea Missile Program Advancing Faster Than Expected, South's Defense Minister Says

The UN Security Council has strongly condemned North Korea's latest ballistic missile test and vowed to take further measures including sanctions.

In a unanimous statement backed by China, the council voiced "utmost concern" about Sunday's launch, described by Pyongyang as a mid-to-long range missile that traveled 787 kilometers before plunging into the Sea of Japan.

The adoption of the US-drafted statement came ahead of an emergency closed-door session of the council Tuesday called by the United States and Japan to discuss the missile launch.

The council said that launches by North Korea reveal development in nuclear weapons delivery systems, which were increasing tensions around the world.

The reclusive North, which has defied all calls to rein in its weapons programmes, even from its lone major ally, China, said the missile test was a legitimate defence against USA hostility.

The long-range strategic ballistic rocket Hwasong-12 (Mars-12) is launched during a test in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on May 15, 2017.

The missile flew 489 miles on a trajectory reaching an altitude of 1,312 miles, KCNA said.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un said in January that his country has entered the final stage of preparing to launch an ICBM. The U.S. ambassador to the U.N., Nikki Haley, said on ABC television that the United States has been working well with China and raised the possibility that new sanctions against North Korea could include oil imports.

The council signaled Monday it was ready to act against North Korea because of its "flagrant and provocative defiance" of earlier demands to end all nuclear testing.

North Korea says the missile can carry a heavy nuclear warhead.

North Korean propaganda must be considered with wariness - Pyongyang has threatened for decades to reduce Seoul to a "sea of fire", for instance - but Monday's claim, if confirmed, would mark another big advance toward the North's goal of fielding a nuclear-tipped missile capable of reaching the US mainland.

Trump and new South Korean President Moon Jae-in will meet in Washington next month, with North Korea expected to be high on the agenda, the South's presidential Blue House said.

Besides worries about North Korea's missile and nuclear weapons programs, cyber security researchers have found technical evidence they said could link Pyongyang with the WannaCry "ransomware" cyber attack that has infected more than 300,000 computers in 150 countries since Friday.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Tuesday the test was "absolutely unacceptable" and represented "a significant threat" to Japan and the U.S. He spoke after meeting with the head of the U.S. Pacific Command, Admiral Harry Harris.

The UN statement also condemned an April 28 ballistic missile launch by Pyongyang. The USS Carl Vinson, an aircraft carrier, is also engaging with South Korean navy ships in waters off the Korean Peninsula, according to Seoul's Defense Ministry.

In a historical shift in foreign policy, China might support a new round of sanctions by the United Nations (UN) against North Korea after its recent missile test, according to observers.

  • Leroy Wright