- As China dispatches 5th peacekeeping force to Mali
North Korea’s missile program is progressing faster than expected, South Korea’s defense minister said on Tuesday, hours after the U.N. Security Council demanded the Kim Jong Un’s regime halt all nuclear and ballistic missile tests.
The reclusive North, which has defied all calls to rein in its weapons programs, has been working on a missile, mounted with a nuclear warhead, capable of striking the U.S. mainland.
President Donald Trump’s administration has called for an immediate halt to Pyongyang’s provocations and has warned that the “era of strategic patience” with North Korea is over.
South Korean Defense Minister Han Min-koo told parliament that Sunday’s test-launch was “successful in flight.”
“It is considered an IRBM (intermediate range ballistic missile) of enhanced caliber compared to Musudan missiles that have continually failed,” he said, referring to a class of missile designed to travel up to 1,860 to 2,485 miles.
Asked if North Korea’s missile program was developing faster than the South had expected, he said: “Yes.”
The North’s KCNA news agency said Sunday’s launch tested its capability to carry a “large-size heavy nuclear warhead.” Kim’s ambassador to China said in Beijing on Monday it would continue such test launches “any time, any place.”
The missile flew 489 miles on a trajectory reaching an altitude of 1,312 miles, KCNA said.
Pyongyang has regularly threatened to destroy the United States, which it accuses of pushing the Korean peninsula to the brink of nuclear war by conducting recent military drills with South Korea and Japan.
The missile launched Sunday appears to be the most powerful the country has ever tested. Some analysts believe the missile, if proven in further tests, could reach Alaska and Hawaii if fired on a normal, instead of a lofted, trajectory.
“This is a very uncomfortable development for the United States,” said Lee Illwoo, a Seoul-based commentator on military issues told The Associated Press.
In the meantime, a team of 190 officers and soldiers has departed from northeast China’s Dalian for a United Nations peacekeeping mission in Mali, a report said on Tuesday.
“The team is part of China’s 395-strong fifth peacekeeping force to Mali, which consists of security personnel, military engineers, and medical staff.
“The remaining teams will depart on May 24 to relieve the fourth peacekeeping group,’’ it noted.
The media report said that some 79 members of the fifth group had previously taken part in the third peacekeeping force sent to Mali.
The fifth group, however, would stay in Mali for one year, covering tasks including ensuring security, repairing roads, bridges, airfield runways, and campsites, as well as emergency rescue and medical treatment.
Additional report from NBC