Tillerson Says North Korean ICBM Test a ‘New Escalation’ of Threat to US, World

By Patrick Goodenough | July 4, 2017 | 7:40 PM EDT

The official KCNA news agency says this photo shows North Koreans celebrating a ballistic missile launch on July 4, 2017. (Photo: KCNA)

(CNSNews.com) – North Korea’s testing of an intercontinental ballistic missile “represents a new escalation of the threat to the United States, our allies and partners, the region, and the world,” Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Tuesday, calling for global action “to stop a global threat.”

The U.S. has called an urgent session of the U.N. Security Council (UNSC), and U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley has joined her South Korean and Japanese counterparts in calling on China – which holds the council’s rotating presidency this month – to make the meeting an open door one.

Reacting to Monday night’s launch of what U.S. officials believe to be an ICBM – the North Koreans identified it as a Hwasong-14 missile – Tillerson warned that countries which host North Korean guest workers, provide economic or military benefits, or fail to fully implement UNSC resolutions relating to Pyongyang are “aiding and abetting a dangerous regime.”

“All nations should publicly demonstrate to North Korea that there are consequences to their pursuit of nuclear weapons,” he said in a statement, adding the U.S. intends to bring the “provocative action” before the UNSC and enact “stronger measures” than those already in place.

 “The United States seeks only the peaceful denuclearization of the Korean peninsula and the end of threatening actions by North Korea,” Tillerson said. “As we, along with others, have made clear, we will never accept a nuclear-armed North Korea.”

President Trump and his national security team are assessing the situation, in coordination with U.S. allies and partners.

Tillerson’s warning about countries effectively colluding with the Kim Jong-un regime comes shortly before Trump is due to meet in Europe with the leaders of some of the nations concerned.

According to U.N. experts, tens of thousands of North Koreans are employed in foreign countries, often in very poor working conditions. China and Russia are at the forefront, while others implicated include Poland, Burma, Arab Gulf states like Qatar and the UAE, and a number of countries in sub-Saharan Africa.

Trump will meet with the Russian and Chinese presidents at the G20 summit in Hamburg beginning Friday, one day after he pays a visit to Poland.

U.S. Pacific Command described the missile as a land-based, intermediate-range ballistic missile, which it said was tracked in flight for 37 minutes before it splashed down in the Sea of Japan.

PACOM said the North American Aerospace Defense Command assessed that the missile launch did not pose a threat to North America.

The launch occurred on the morning of July 4, North Korean time. It’s not the first time the regime has chosen to carry out launches on or around U.S. Independence Day, having done so in 2006 and again in 2009. It also tested a missile on the eve of President Obama’s State of the Union address in 2013.

An image from an official regime propaganda website shows the purported launch of a long-range missile in North Korea’s North Pyongan province on the morning of July 4, 2017, local time. (Screengrab: Uriminzokkiri)

The official KCNA news agency cited the Academy of Defense Sciences as saying the Hwasong-14 had flown for 39 minutes before hitting “target waters,” having achieved an altitude of 2,802 kilometers (about 1,740 miles) and flown a distance of 933 kilometers (580 miles).

“Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un watched the whole process of the test launch and declared it is a brilliant success,” reported Pyongyang Times, describing the development as a “mega event for the DPRK.”

“As a full-fledged nuclear power equipped with nukes and ICBM that is able to hit any parts of the world, the DPRK will strive to root out the U.S.’ nuclear war threats and safeguard peace and stability in the Korean peninsula and beyond,” the regime mouthpiece said.

The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea in the reclusive Stalinist state’s formal name.

KCNA reported that the army and people were “gripped by a great joy” upon hearing of the successful launch.

It quoted Metallurgical Industry vice-minister Ri Un Chon as saying that he was “much gratified with just imagining the wretched appearance of the U.S. shocked by the test-fire.”

Patrick Goodenough
Patrick Goodenough
Spencer Journalism Fellow