North Korea says new long-range missile puts US mainland within range of nuclear weapons

This file photo released on July 5, 2017 by North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) shows North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un (C) celebrating the successful test-fire of the intercontinental ballistic missile Hwasong-14 at an undisclosed location. (AFP PHOTO/KCNA VIA KNS)
Updated 30 November 2017

North Korea says new long-range missile puts US mainland within range of nuclear weapons

SEOUL/WASHINGTON: North Korea said it successfully tested a powerful new intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) on Wednesday that put the entire US mainland within range of its nuclear weapons.
North Korea’s first missile test since mid-September came a week after US President Donald Trump put North Korea back on a US list of countries it says support terrorism, allowing it to impose more sanctions.
North Korea, which also conducted its sixth and largest nuclear test in September, has tested dozens of ballistic missiles under its leader, Kim Jong Un, in defiance of international sanctions. The latest was the highest and longest any North Korean missile had flown, landing in the sea near Japan.
North Korea said the new missile reached an altitude of about 4,475 km (2,780 miles) — more than 10 times the height of the International Space Station — and flew 950 km (590 miles) during its 53-minute flight.
“After watching the successful launch of the new type ICBM Hwasong-15, Kim Jong Un declared with pride that now we have finally realized the great historic cause of completing the state nuclear force, the cause of building a rocket power,” according to a statement read by a television presenter.
North Korea described itself as a “responsible nuclear power,” saying its strategic weapons were developed to defend itself from “the US imperialists’ nuclear blackmail policy and nuclear threat.”
The UN Security Council was scheduled to meet on Wednesday to discuss the launch.
Many nuclear experts say the North has yet to prove it has mastered all technical hurdles, including the ability to deliver a heavy nuclear warhead reliably atop an ICBM, but it was likely that it soon would.
“We don’t have to like it, but we’re going to have to learn to live with North Korea’s ability to target the United States with nuclear weapons,” said Jeffrey Lewis, head of the East Asia Nonproliferation Program at the Middlebury Institute of Strategic Studies.
US, Japanese and South Korean officials all agreed the missile, which landed within Japan’s exclusive economic zone, was likely an ICBM. The test did not pose a threat to the US, its territories or allies, the Pentagon said.
“It went higher, frankly, than any previous shot they’ve taken, a research and development effort on their part to continue building ballistic missiles that can threaten everywhere in the world, basically,” US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told reporters at the White House.
Trump spoke by phone with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and South Korean President Moon Jae-In, with all three reaffirming their commitment to combat the North Korean threat.
“It is a situation that we will handle,” Trump told reporters.
Trump, who was briefed on the missile while it was in flight, said it did not change his administration’s approach to North Korea, which has included new curbs to hurt trade between China and North Korea.
Abe and Moon, in a separate telephone call, said they would “no longer tolerate” North Korea’s increasing threats and would tighten sanctions, the South’s presidential office said.
Washington has said repeatedly that all options, including military ones, are on the table in dealing with North Korea while stressing its desire for a peaceful solution.
“Diplomatic options remain viable and open, for now,” US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said.
Other than enforcing existing UN sanctions, “the international community must take additional measures to enhance maritime security, including the right to interdict maritime traffic” traveling to North Korea, Tillerson said in a statement.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres strongly condemned the launch.
“This is a clear violation of Security Council resolutions and shows complete disregard for the united view of the international community,” his spokesman said in a statement.
China, North Korea’s lone major ally, expressed “grave concern” at the test, while calling for all sides to act cautiously.
In Moscow, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov also urged all sides to stay calm, saying this was necessary to avoid a worst-case scenario on the Korean peninsula.
The new Hwasong-15, named after the planet Mars, was a more advanced version of an ICBM tested twice in July, North Korea said. It was designed to carry a “super-large heavy warhead.”
Based on its trajectory and distance, the missile would have a range of more than 13,000 km (8,100 miles) — more than enough to reach Washington D.C. and the rest of the United States, the US-based Union of Concerned Scientists said.
However, it was unclear how heavy a payload the missile was carrying, and it was uncertain if it could carry a large nuclear warhead that far, the nonprofit science advocacy group added.
Minutes after the North fired the missile, South Korea’s military said it conducted a missile-firing test in response.
Moon said the launch had been anticipated. There was no choice but for countries to keep applying pressure, he added.
“The situation could get out of control if North Korea perfects its ICBM technology,” Moon said after a national security council meeting.
“North Korea shouldn’t miscalculate the situation and threaten South Korea with a nuclear weapon, which could elicit a possible pre-emptive strike by the United States.”
The test comes less than three months before South Korea hosts the Winter Olympics at a resort just 80 km (50 miles) from the heavily fortified border with the North.
US stocks briefly pared gains on the news but the S&P 500 index closed up almost 1 percent and Asian markets largely shrugged off the news.
North Korea has said its weapons programs are a necessary defense against US plans to invade. The US, which has 28,500 troops in South Korea as a legacy of the 1950-53 Korean war, denies any such intention.
Last week, North Korea denounced Trump’s decision to relist it as a state sponsor of terrorism, calling it a “serious provocation and violent infringement.”
Trump has traded insults and threats with Kim and warned in September that the US would have no choice but to “totally destroy” North Korea if forced to defend itself or its allies.


Pakistan shuts Taftan border after coronavirus kills six in Iran

Updated 25 min 23 sec ago

Pakistan shuts Taftan border after coronavirus kills six in Iran

  • Flights to and from Iran unaffected despite deaths
  • Health emergency declared in border districts 

KARACHI: Pakistan has sealed its Taftan border and stopped pilgrims from traveling via the crossing to Iran after six coronavirus deaths were reported in the neighboring country, officials told Arab News on Sunday.
Afghanistan has also suspended travel to the neighboring country as fears across the region continued to grow over a jump in new coronavirus infections.
There are several shrines in Iran which are frequented by a large number of Shiites from Pakistan. Hundreds of people access the Taftan border crossing between the countries on a daily basis.
Pakistan has stopped all movement from crossing points, launched screening procedures and introduced additional patrols along the border “until the situation is under control,” Mir Zia Ullah Langove, home minister of southwestern Balochistan province, said.
“We are trying to take every possible precaution,” he told Arab News, adding that these were efforts being taken by the provincial government, with assurance from Prime Minister Imran Khan that the federal government would also be extending its help.
The move to seal the border follows Chief Minister Jam Kamal Khan’s decision to declare a health emergency in all provincial districts bordering Iran on Saturday. But reports of the coronavirus deaths have had no impact on flights to and from Iran.
“The staff of the health ministry is already present at the airports and a passenger is allowed entry only after clearance of health declaration,” Abdul Sattar Khokhar, Civil Aviation Authority of Pakistan spokesman, told Arab News as he dismissed reports of a temporary halt on flights to Iran.
“There is no reality in reports that flight operations to Iran have been stopped. We had neither stopped flight operations to and from China and nor will it be stopped to any other country.”
Imran Zarkon, who is chief of the Provincial Disaster Management Authority, said 1,000 masks had been distributed in border areas and a temporary hospital tent with 100-beds had been set up to deal with an emergency as part of preventive efforts.
“Qom is the most affected area of Iran where the pilgrims go, so if there is any possibility of virus coming to Pakistan it will be through Taftan and authorities here are on high alert,” he told Arab News.
But these steps have failed to console the people of Balochistan, with some expressing concern about illegal movement along the porous border.
“Iran shares over #1000 KM long porous border with #Balochistan #Pakistan, #coronaravirus deaths are alarming news for the region,” Sanallah Baloch, a Balochistan lawmaker, tweeted on Saturday. “Daily 100s of people cross these borders without formal procedures, region is poverty-stricken with no medical facility.”
In a statement released Sunday, Pakistan’s Minister for Religious Affairs Noorul Haq Qadri said he had discussed the matter with Iranian officials to safeguard Pakistani nationals visiting the country.
Qadri also spoke to Dr. Zafar Mirza, state minister for health, on the deployment of medical teams to Taftan town along the border.
Iranian health authorities said 28 people were being treated for the virus in at least four different cities, including Tehran.
Both Afghanistan and Pakistan share long, porous borders with Iran that are often used by smugglers and human traffickers, while millions of Afghan refugees currently live in the Islamic Republic — raising fears that the virus could easily spread over the border.
“To prevent the spread of the novel #coronavirus and protect the public, Afghanistan suspends all passenger movement (air and ground) to and from Iran,” the office of the National Security Council of Afghanistan said in a statement posted on Twitter.
A provincial official in Pakistan and the country’s Frontier Corps also confirmed that the country had sealed the land border with Iran.
Earlier Sunday, Iran reported eight deaths from the novel coronavirus, the highest toll of any country outside China, as the supreme leader accused foreign media of trying to use the outbreak to sabotage a general election.
The latest three deaths Iran reported on Sunday were among 15 new confirmed cases of the COVID-19 virus, bringing the overall number of infections to 43 and fatalities to eight — the highest death toll outside of China, the epicenter of the epidemic.
Four new infections surfaced in the capital Tehran, seven in the holy city of Qom, two in Gilan and one each in Markazi and Tonekabon, health ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour said.
Authorities have ordered as a “preventive measure” the closure of schools, universities and other educational centers in 14 provinces across Iran from Sunday.
Desperate and jobless Afghans have crossed the porous border with Iran for years in search of work to support their struggling families back home.
But hundreds of thousands of Afghans have returned home in recent years as US sanctions have battered the Iranian economy.
Meanwhile, Armenia’s Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said in a Facebook post on Sunday said the country is closing its border with Iran for two weeks and suspending air traffic after reports of coronavirus cases there.
(With AFP and Reuters)