A pedestrian in Tokyo tunes in as a TV screen on a street broadcasts news of North Korea's latest missile launch.
A pedestrian in Tokyo tunes in as a TV screen on a street broadcasts news of North Korea's latest missile launch. FRANCK ROBICHON

Kim may have his missile

KIM Jong-un may have the weapon he wants.

Speculation is rife yesterday's successful test may have been of a missile able to reach the US and Australia.

The ballistic missile, a new and unidentified type, was fired from near North Korea's border with China.

"North Korea fired an unidentified ballistic missile into the Sea of Japan from the vicinity of Banghyon, North Pyongan Province, at around 9.40am,” South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement.

A short time later, South Korea's Yonyap News Agency announced President Moon had called an urgent National Security Council meeting.

South Korean government sources reported the missile flew for 40 minutes before splashing down more than 900km away in the Sea of Japan, indicating a successful launch of a ballistic missile with intercontinental abilities.

The significance is in its flight time. It could indicate North Korea is on the verge of putting one into the semi- orbit needed to cover distances that would make it an intercontinental ballistic missile.

All that remains to confirm - or deny - its ICBM status is data about the trajectory's apogee (highest altitude).

The Japan Times quotes a "high ranking Japanese official” as saying the missile followed a steep "lofted” trajectory.

"A missile on such a trajectory poses a grave threat to Japan because it falls at a much faster speed than a conventional launch, making an exceedingly difficult target for any US-developed anti-missile defence systems deployed by Japan,” the paper reports.

Japan will "never tolerate repeated provocations” by the North, which has continued to test fire dozens of ballistic missiles in recent years as it seeks more precise launches, the paper quotes Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga as saying.

News of the test came on United States Independence Day, July 4, and just days after US President Trump demanded China and Russia do more to rein in the maverick North Korean leader's provocations.

Mr Trump tweeted about the launch: "North Korea has just launched another missile. Does this guy have anything better to do with his life? 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!”

Reaction on social media was swift, with fellow tweeter Jules Suzdaltsev among those to respond.

"You tweeting 'Does this guy have anything better to do with his life?' is the absolute height of irony!” he said.

"Why can't you ever take a diplomatic solution to things like this? Why do you have to taunt a crazed ruler with nuclear weapons? And worst of all, you don't actually DO anything except talk like a big keyboard warrior on the internet! Do your job! Deal with this!”

China's UN ambassador warned on Monday that further escalation of already high tensions with North Korea risked getting out of control, "and the consequences would be disastrous”.