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

17 Mai 2017

In a bid to push a diplomatic solution of the North Korean issue, at a recent ministerial level meeting of the Security Council, China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi proposed what he called "suspension-for-suspension" deal, which advocates the suspension of North Korea's nuclear development program, reciprocated by the suspension of a large-scale military drill by the US and South Korea, to help de-escalate the tension on the peninsula and to lay a foundation for a negotiated settlement of the ongoing crisis. The missile called Hwasong-12 was sacked and flew at 787 kilometers (489 miles).

North Korea yesterday carried out its latest test of a ballistic missile, which Pyongyang said was capable of carrying a "heavy nuclear warhead".

The North has made no secret of its quest to develop a missile capable of delivering a nuclear warhead to the continental United States - something President Donald Trump has vowed "won't happen".

Despite that, President Trump already expressed his intent to keep the relationship between the USA and North Korea "diplomatic" to prevent the latter from using nuclear missiles.

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said Sunday it is time for many nations to "send a strong, unified message that this is unacceptable, and I think you'll see the worldwide community do that". Since then, North Korea has been a friendly neighbor that China has protected at all costs against South Korea and its ally, the U.S. The fall of communist North Korea for a unified democratic Korea under Washington's influence has not been an acceptable option for Beijing.

Asked if North Korea's missile programme was developing faster than the South had expected, Mr Han said: "Yes".

Aside from Pyongyang's space launches, Jeffrey Lewis of the Middlebury Institute of International Studies in the USA told AFP: "This is the longest-range missile North Korea has ever tested".

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A reliable missile must endure at least 10 successful test launches, according to Professor Chae Yeon-seok at South Korea's University of Science & Technology.

Ju Yong Choi said US' criticism of it was a "wanton violation of the sovereignty and dignity of the DPRK [Democratic People's Republic of Korea]". However, South Korea downplayed the progress.

In a unanimously agreed statement, the 15-member UN Security Council said it was of vital importance that North Korea show "sincere commitment to denuclearisation through concrete action and stressed the importance of working to reduce tensions". It again demanded that Pyongyang conduct no further nuclear or ballistic missile tests. Traditionally, the United States and China have negotiated new measures before involving remaining council members.

Another important point: One test, even a successful one, does not completely prove a missile's capabilities.

Following that launch, Washington began talks with China on possible new United Nations sanctions.

Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, told ABC's "This Week" that "having a missile test is not the way to sit down with the president, because he's absolutely not going to do it". The White House called North Korea a "flagrant menace" and called for tougher sanctions. But the thing that worries experts the most is the fact that by 2020, Pyongyang may have successfully developed a nuclear missile that can reach the U.S.