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Will handle situation, says Donald Trump after North Korea tests missile

North Korea earlier threatened to respond to North Korea’s missile and nuclear tests with “fire and fury”.

world Updated: Nov 29, 2017 11:46 IST
Yashwant Raj
Yashwant Raj
Hindustan Times, Washington
North Korea‬,‪Japan‬,United States of America
People watch a television news screen showing pictures of US President Donald Trump (C) and North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un (R) at a railway station in Seoul on November 29. (AFP)

North Korea said on Wednesday it has successfully tested a new intercontinental ballistic missile that could potentially put the “whole mainland of the US” within its range but President Donald Trump’s response was cautious and lacking in hyperboles that have characterised his earlier reactions against Pyongyang.

“It is a situation that we will handle,” Trump said.

“Nothing changed. We have a very serious approach, but nothing changed,” he said when prodded by reporters if the launch, which some have said seemed to be in defiance, would force him to change his strategy.

Trump had earlier threatened to respond to North Korea’s missile and nuclear tests with “fire and fury”, and “totally destroy” the Asian country, and sought to belittle its leader Kim Jong-un as the “rocket man”. He seemed distracted somewhat, with the ongoing tax-reform legislation negotiations.

This was the first test by Pyongyang since mid-September and came a week after the Trump administration declared North Korea a state sponsor of terrorism — joining Syria and Iran — and slapped new sanctions against entities and individuals, mostly Chinese, doing business with the country.

US defence secretary James Mattis said the intercontinental ballistic missile tested “went higher, frankly, than any previous shot they’ve taken”.

“It’s a research and development effort on their part to continue building ballistic missiles that could threaten everywhere in the world,” Mattis added.

The missile rose to an altitude of 2,800 miles (4,500 km) — the International Space Station hovers at an average distance of 240 miles above the earth — and 600 miles before splashing into the Sea of Japan well inside Japan’s Exclusive Economic Zone.

Experts said that if the missile, which was the third ICBM tested by Pyongyang this year following two in July, had flown the standard trajectory designed to maximise reach, it would have gone around 8,100 miles putting Washington DC within its range.

“This is significantly longer than North Korea’s previous long-range tests, which flew on lofted trajectories for 37 minutes (July 4) and 47 minutes (July 28),” said David Wright of the US-based Union of Concerned Scientists.

“Such a missile would have more than enough range to reach Washington, DC, and in fact any part of the continental United States,” Wright added.

But, he added, there was no information on its payload.

“Given the increase in range, it seems likely that it carried a very light mock warhead. If true, that means it would be incapable of carrying a nuclear warhead to this long distance since such a warhead would be much heavier,” he said.

Trump spoke to the Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe and South Korea’s Moon Jae-in, who, according to Reuters, told the American leader that the North Korea’s missiles technology had improved.

The US has said while all options remain on the table, it prefers a peaceful solution.

“Diplomatic options remain viable and open, for now. The United States remains committed to finding a peaceful path to denuclearisation and to ending belligerent actions by North Korea,” US secretary of state Rex Tillerson said in a statement.

The state department said the US and Canada had called a meeting of the United Nations Command Sending States - a group 16 member countries going back to the Korean war in the 1950s - “to discuss how the global community can counter North Korea’s threat to international peace”.

The UN Security Council is scheduled to discuss the latest test on Wednesday.

First Published: Nov 29, 2017 11:46 IST