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16 May 2017, 09:17 | Ricardo Garza
The U.S. THAAD missile defense battery recently installed in South Korea is now capable of intercepting North Korean missiles, a Pentagon spokesman said Monday, amid heightened tensions in the wake of Pyongyang's latest missile test. Outsiders also saw a significant technological jump, with the test-fire apparently flying higher and for a longer time period than any other such previous missile.
Leader Kim Jong-Un personally oversaw the test on Sunday, the official Korea Central News Agency (KCNA) said, and pictures by state media showed him gazing at the missile in a hangar before the launch.
Trump also has sought to enlist Chinese President Xi Jinping's help in preventing North Korea from escalating development of its weapons program.
On Sunday, the North successfully test-fired a new intermediate-range ballistic missile.
The missile flew for half an hour and reached an unusually high altitude before landing in the Sea of Japan, the South Korean, Japanese and United States militaries said.
Japanese officials said the missile flew for about 800 kilometers before landing in the Sea of Japan.
Melissa Hanham, senior research associate at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies in California, told CNN the test could easily be seen as a stepping stone to a longer-range weapon, despite one Pentagon official saying the missile was "not consistent" with an ICBM.
North Korea said it fired the missile at a high angle to avoid neighbouring countries.
The adoption of the US-drafted statement came ahead of an emergency closed-door session of the council on Tuesday called by the United States and Japan to discuss the missile launch.
That signalled a new phase in applying sanctions that curb exports of coal from North Korea, impose severe restrictions on banking and ban sales of luxury goods and equipment that could be of use to the military.
"If the United States awkwardly attempts to provoke the DPRK, it will not escape from the biggest disaster in [.] history", KCNA quoted Kim as saying, referring to the North's formal name of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.
North Korea's ambassador to China says that Pyongyang's test-firing of a ballistic missile over the weekend is part of the country's efforts to develop ways to defend itself against hostile aggression overseas.
The Trump administration has given mixed signals about his approach to the North, vowing to keep the possibility of military action on the table and deploying several warships in the region, while pledging to pursue a more diplomatic policy of "maximum pressure and engagement". He said Sunday's launch - the seventh such firing by North Korea this year - may have been of a new mobile, two-stage liquid-fueled missile North Korea displayed in a huge April 15 military parade.
Russian President Vladimir Putin condemned the missile launch, telling reporters during a visit to China that "there's nothing good about" it.
"Let this latest provocation serve as a call for all nations to implement far stronger sanctions against North Korea", said the statement from White House press secretary Sean Spicer.
U.S. President Donald Trump warned in an interview with Reuters this month that a "major, major conflict" with North Korea was possible.
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Earlier in the day, Moon spoke with British Prime Minister Theresa May and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the Blue House said. The Thaad missile system, aimed at intercepting attacks from North Korea , was made operational in South Korea last week.
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