The United States said North Korea is testing an intercontinental ballistic missile system, vowing to impose new sanctions

The Pentagon said Thursday that North Korea’s two recent missile tests were on an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) system, referring to what a US official described as a “serious escalation” that would be punished by new sanctions.

According to North Korea, the February 26 and March 4 tests focused on the development of a reconnaissance satellite, but the Pentagon said that careful analysis concluded that they were in fact experimental precursors for a possible full-range launch of ICBMs.

Any such launch would mark the end of Pyongyang’s self-imposed moratorium since 2017 and lead to an escalation of military tensions on the Korean peninsula and beyond.

North Korea has conducted three intercontinental ballistic missile tests. The last was the November 2017 Hwasong-15 — which is considered powerful enough to reach Washington and the rest of the continental United States.

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said the last two tests “included a new intercontinental ballistic missile system” that Pyongyang first demonstrated at a military parade in October 2020.

While none of the launches demonstrated the range or capability of the ICBMs, they were clearly intended to “evaluate this new system prior to a future full-range test, potentially disguised as a space launch,” as Kirby said.

Prior to ICBM tests in 2017, North Korea carried out a series of powerful missile launches that it insisted were part of a broader civilian space program.

The launches took place from the Sohae satellite launch station on the northwest coast, and North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency reported on Friday that leader Kim Jong Un visited the facility and ordered its expansion and modernization — a move that would only lead to speculation of an ICBM test. convincingly imminent.

North Korea is already under severe international sanctions over its missile and nuclear weapons programme.

But a senior US official said the recent tests were a “serious escalation” and that the Treasury Department would announce new measures on Friday to help prevent Pyongyang from accessing “foreign materials and technology” to advance that program.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said such actions underscore that North Korea’s “illegal and destabilizing activities have consequences” and that diplomatic negotiations are the only viable way forward for Pyongyang.

Kirby said Washington “remains committed to a diplomatic approach” but will “take all necessary measures to ensure the security of the United States and our allies.”

Nine weapons tests so far When the new ICBM was unveiled at a 2020 review, military analysts said it appeared to be the largest liquid-fueled road-mobile missile anywhere in the world — and likely designed to carry multiple warheads in reloading vehicles. Independent Entry (MERVs).

North Korea watchers regularly warn that the devices Pyongyang displays at its parades may be models or models, and there is no evidence that they work until they are tested.

Pyongyang has remained committed to its moratorium on ICBM testing and nuclear weapons since Kim embarked on a series of high-level diplomatic talks with then-US President Donald Trump in 2017.

Talks later collapsed and diplomacy has since fallen apart, despite efforts by the administration of US President Joe Biden to advance new negotiations.

North Korea began hinting in January that it might lift the embargo, and has conducted nine weapons tests this year, including banned hypersonic and intermediate-range ballistic missiles.

But Pyongyang has carried out several missile launches there that the United States and others have condemned as convincing long-range ballistic missile tests.

An intercontinental ballistic missile launch will be an early challenge for South Korea’s new president-elect, Yoon Seok-yeol, who has vowed to take a tough line with North Korea’s provocations.

Yun has not ruled out the possibility of dialogue with Pyongyang, but analysts say his tough stance puts him in a completely different position and greatly reduces the likelihood of substantive engagement.

(AFP)

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