Korea claims successful launch of ‘monster missile’ Hwasong-17
North Korea has announced that it successfully launched its largest intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) in a test on Thursday.
The Hwasong-17 was first unveiled in 2020 at a parade where its colossal size surprised even seasoned analysts.
Thursday’s launch marked the first time the country tested a ICBM since 2017.
ICBMs are long-range missiles, capable of reaching the US. N Korea is banned from testing them and has been heavily sanctioned for doing so before.
State media said leader Kim Jong-un directly guided Thursday’s test and the weapon was key to deterring nuclear war.
Ankit Panda from the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace called the launch a “significant milestone” for North Korea’s nuclear arsenal.
“This test was long telegraphed and continues North Korea’s efforts to improve its nuclear deterrent,” he told the BBC.
Thursday’s missile launch was tracked by militaries in Japan and South Korea – Japanese officials said it flew to an altitude of 6,000 km (3,728 miles) and fell in Japanese waters after flying for more than an hour.
This is a big missile. Huge.
As one analyst described it: “A monster missile”.
It is believed to be the largest mobile ICBM designed to carry multiple warheads.
The international community had been warned this was coming.
Kim Jong-un first showed off this missile at a military parade in October 2020 and state media had mentioned several times that the pause in long range missile tests was over.
The next steps also feel familiar. The United States and its allies will issue condemnation, there will be further sanctions placed on North Korea, there will be discussions about diplomacy and perhaps co-co-ordinating with China in the hope the Beijing can influence neighbouring Pyongyang.
We’ve been here before.
And yet Kim Jong-un, while under strict international sanctions and a self-imposed blockade at the border to prevent the spread of the pandemic, has managed to build weapons that go further and faster.
As state media said – this ICBM is seen as a “necessary deterrent”. The regime has made it a priority even as it tackles a “grave” economic crisis.
Pyongyang is determined to be seen as a nuclear power, as part of the elite nuclear club and most analysts believe more tests are coming.
Something the international community is unlikely to ever accept.
The Biden administration has understandably been busy. North Korea has not been a priority.
The real headache, if Washington chooses to take on this challenge, is what more can they do that hasn’t already been done.
“The door has not closed on diplomacy, but Pyongyang must immediately cease its destabilising actions,” White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said.
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres called the launch “a significant escalation of tensions in the region”, while South Korean president Moon Jae-in said it was a “breach of the suspension of intercontinental ballistic missile launches promised by Chairman Kim Jong-un to the international community”.
After the launch, state media quoted Mr Kim as saying that the country was preparing for a long confrontation with US imperialism.
China Eastern crash: What do we know so far?
It was supposed to be a routine two-hour flight carrying 132 people from one big city to another in southern China.
But just over an hour into its journey, China Eastern Flight MU5735 pitched over into a sudden near-vertical dive.
The Boeing 737-800 jet hurtled to the ground at high speed – thousands of feet a minute – slamming into a hillside in a fiery explosion.
Most of the jet appears to have disintegrated on impact.
But search crews scouring the mountains in Wuzhou, Guangxi province have found charred wreckage, scattered belongings, debris and some human remains.
They’ve also found a piece critical to the puzzle – one of the two so-called black boxes. The cockpit voice recorder was damaged on the outside but its recordings were still intact.
Investigators are hoping it will explain a disaster confounding aviation experts. What caused the plane to suddenly nosedive and crash?
Here’s what we know so far.
Flight MU5735 took off from Kunming at 13:11 local time (05:11 GMT) and was due to arrive, two provinces across, in Guangzhou at 15:05. On board were 123 passengers and nine crew.
The jet was a Boeing 737-800, a model long viewed as a reliable workhorse in the industry.
Airline and aviation officials say they’ve not found any faults with the plane or concerns about flying conditions.
The Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) said the plane, which was less than seven years old, had passed all checks prior to take-off.