WORLD AT RISK: North Korea missile test puts leaders on alert
NORTH Korea has launched its most successful intercontinental ballistic missile yet, with experts warning New York and Washington on the eastern seaboard of the US are now within striking range.
The ICBM was launched on a steep trajectory before crashing back to Earth 960km away in the Sea of Japan, 210km from the Japanese coast.
During its 53-minute flight time, the missile soared 4500km into space - which is 10 times higher than the orbit of the International Space Station, South Korea's Yonhap news agency reported.
US President Donald Trump was briefed on the development while the missile was still in the air, White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders tweeted.
Mr Trump warned the US will "take care of it" following the launch and said "it is a situation that we will handle."
US Defense Secretary James Mattis said North Korea is endangering world peace, regional peace and "certainly the United States."
"It's a research and development effort on their part to continue building ballistic missiles that could threaten everywhere in the world, basically," he said.
Mr Mattis said Seoul has fired pinpoint missiles into surrounding waters to make certain Pyongyang understands it can be "taken under fire" by the South.
EVERYWHERE UNDER THREAT
Defence analysts say this latest test demonstrates North Korea has the power and range of a fully functional ICBM, and is likely to have been a Hwasong-14 model missile with a simulated 100kg payload.
David Wright, co-director and senior scientists at the Union of Concerned Scientists said this was significantly longer than North Korea's previous long range tests, which flew on lofted trajectories for 37 minutes.
If flown on a standard trajectory rather than at a lofted angle, the missile would have a range of more than 13,000km, he warned.
This could reach not only the US but anywhere in Australia.
Shea Cotton, a research associate at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies, said this put Washington, DC, within range.
He also said it was the highest performance we've seen in North Korea's ICBM to date.
Vipin Narang, an Associate professor of political science at MIT and an expert on nuclear proliferation and strategy and South Asian security, tweeted "it's real folks" adding the North may have wanted to make clear it can hit the eastern US seaboard.
The ballistic missile was fired from an area north of the capital Pyongyang, South Korea's official news agency reports.
The unidentified missile shot from Pyongsong, South Pyongan Province, flew into the East Sea about 3.17am Wednesday local time, South Korea's military chiefs told Yonhap.
Japan's defence minister Itsunori Onodera said the missile broke up before it landed in the sea, in Japan's exclusive economic zone.
South Korea and US authorities are still analysing the launch, but the Pentagon said its initial assessment indicated it was an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).
The UN Security Council has scheduled an emergency meeting over the latest launch.
The North American Aerospace Defence Command (NORAD) determined the missile launch did not pose a threat to North America, its territories or its allies, including Australia.
However experts warn the test is cause for concern and international pressure was forcing the rogue nation to act out "violently".
Mr Cotton said the NORAD statement didn't refer to the missile's capabilites.
'They meant that they saw the missile, analysed its trajectory while it was in flight, and assessed that it was not aimed at the US or any US allies," he said.
"They're not referring to the missile's capabilities, which do pose a threat to all of those."
Prof Narang said we should not "take too much comfort" over speculation that the missile may have contained a very light mock warhead and would therefore not be capable of carrying a nuclear warhead over such a distance.
South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff said it had conducted a "precision strike" missile launch exercise about 3.23am in response to the North's "provocation", Yonhap reported.
President Moon Jae-in has convened a National Security Council meeting to discuss its next steps.
Japanese, South Korean and US officials were on high alert yesterday after they detected unusual activity and signs that suggested North Korea was preparing another missile launch, including radio signals.
This is the first time the North has launched a ballistic missile since it shot an intermediate-range ballistic missile over northern Japan into the Pacific Ocean on September 15.
It is North Korea's 20th missile test since the start of the year, compared to the 24 launched in 2016.
Ballistic missile analyst for washington-based moniotring grould 38 North and fellow for Missile Defence at the International Institute for Strategic Studies said: "NK appears to have taken another minor step forward as it attempts to mature its ICBM technology.
He said he believed a "viable ICMB" capable of reaching the west coast of the US mainland is still a year away.
KIM ACTING 'LIKE A CORNERED RAT'
An Australian expert on international security says Kim Jong-un's missile test shows tough sanctions against North Korea were not having the desired effect.
Australian National University Southeast Asia Institute director John Blaxland said the international pressure was forcing the rogue nation to act out "violently".
"It strongly suggests sanctions are not working, that Kim plans to continue to defy the collective international pressure and that, if pressed further, could result in an attack in a manner reminiscent of Japan's attack following the US-imposed oil embargo that preceded the attack in Pearl Harbor in December 1941," Prof Blaxland told news.com.au.
"Like a cornered rat, KJU is displaying the tendencies of one prepared to strike out violently."
Mr Cotton said the test marked the end of a 74-day pause in the country's missile tests, the longest we have seen this year.
"We are pretty sure they slow down testing this time of the year to conserve fuel and other resources but they have done tests around this time before," he said.
"I wouldn't exactly say this test took us totally by surprise, given the length of time, 74 days, between this test and their last.
"This gap in tests the past couple months aligned with a seasonal decrease in tests we've seen for several years, so we can't exactly say if sanctions were the cause of it but I suspect not precisely because we've seen this decrease in the past."
Prof Blaxland agreed that this was usually a quiet period of the year for North Korean military aggression.
He said most of the national effort was usually focused on finalising the harvest and hunkering down for a bitterly cold winter, when fuel is of critical importance.
New York-based Asian specialist Sean King said testing missiles was simply was North Korea does and cautioned the west against overreacting.
"This is nothing new. If anything, Pyongyang appears to have waited until well after President Trump left Asia to have conducted this test," he said.
"Plus there's still no atmospheric hydrogen bomb test over the Pacific as threatened."
In an interview with Sky News this morning, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop condemned North Korea's continued violation of UN secutity council resolutions.
The South Korean President called the test a "serious threat" to global peace while Japan also slammed the test.
Professor Greg Barton from Deakin University told Sky News that China remained the only ones who could bring North Korea to account and warned against military action.
Prof Barton the US could launch a series of special force strikes against North Korean facilities but thousands of lives would be lost.
"The sad truth is we have no good options and when President Trump says I'll take care of it we will deal with it there's nothing good that can be done and what might be done under pressure might result in some very bad outcomes," he said.