North Korea's latest missile launch 'ignored' by China


Beijing: China’s apparent anger at North Korea’s latest missile test saw a ban on any mention of the successful launch in state-controlled media on Monday.

The longer range of the Hwasong-12 (Mars-12), which travelled 787 kilometres and reached an altitude of 2111.5 kilometres, caused alarm internationally on Sunday. The China Daily, The Global Times and People’s Daily noticeably failed to report it. 

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US Ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, blasted North Korea’s latest ballistic missile launch saying it stemmed from leader Kim Jong Un’s ‘state of paranoia’.

US experts at the North Korean missile-watch centre 38North said the launch was a “substantial advance” towards the development of an intercontinental ballistic missile which might have the capacity to strike the US base at Guam.

The centre’s John Schilling wrote that the missile would have flown 4500 kilometres if launched on maximum trajectory. South Korea’s Yonhap reported that the missile appeared to have used a new type of fuel.

But Chinese experts approached for comment replied the missile was not as important as President Xi Jinping’s Belt and Road summit taking place in Beijing.

The missile was fired on the same morning Mr Xi gave a keynote speech to the global trade and infrastructure summit, attended by 29 world leaders, including Russian President Vladimir Putin. 

North Korea’s state newspaper Rodong Sinmun devoted three pages to photographs showing “Dear Supreme Leader” Kim Jong-un’s jubilation at the success of the missile, after recent failures.

The North Korean newspaper said the missile test was conducted at the “highest angle in consideration of the security of neighbouring countries” and aimed to verify the capability of a “newly-developed ballistic rocket capable of carrying a large-size heavy nuclear warhead”.

Kim had urged the military to “speedup development of mid-long range ballistic missile”, the report said. 

Mr Putin’s presence at the Belt and Road summit, and his “stroll” around a state guest house grounds with Mr Xi, reminiscent of US President Donald Trump’s stroll at Mar-a-lago in April, was heavily reported by Chinese media.

Russia and China, both significant trading partners of North Korea, have stepped up dialogue over North Korea’s nuclear weapons program in recent weeks. 

Vladivostok could be offered as a venue for international talks with North Korea, said the director of the Carnegie Moscow Centre, Dmitri Trenin, a former Russian military officer.

“Russia is hardly jealous of China being the main partner for the US” in trying to resolve the difficult issue, Mr Trenin wrote in the Global Times.

Russia would be careful not to allow itself to be used by Pyongyang, which had previously attempted to play its neighbours off against each other, he said.

The United Nations Security Council will meet on Tuesday to discuss a response to the missile test, which came days after the election of a new South Korean president, Moon Jae-in, who has suggested he would be willing to negotiate a weapons freeze with North Korea.

Mr Trenin said Moscow believed “it is futile to expect North Korea to enter meaningful negotiations on limits to its weapons program” until it had developed a nuclear-tipped missile capable of reaching the United States.

On Sunday, the White House pointedly mentioned how close to Russia the latest North Korean missile landed.

The latest missile didn’t technically cross the red line of a nuclear weapons test or intercontinental ballistic missile that would trigger a new round of sanctions, but breached existing UN resolutions.

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