North Korea claims they're now capable of answering 'US aggression' with latest missile launch

SEOUL, May 22 (Reuters) - North Korea said on Monday it had successfully tested an intermediate-range ballistic missile which met all technical requirements and could now be mass-produced, indicating advances in its ambitions to be able to hit the United States.

The North fired the missile into waters off its east coast on Sunday, its second missile test in a week, which South Korea said dashed the hopes of the South's new liberal government under President Moon Jae-in for peace between the neighbors.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un supervised the test of the Pukguksong-2, which confirmed reliable late-stage guidance of the warhead and the functioning of a solid-fuel engine, the KCNA state news agency said.

It quoted Kim as saying the Pukguksong-2 met all the required technical specifications so should now be mass-produced and deployed to the Korean People's Army strategic battle unit.

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A missile is carried by a military vehicle during a parade to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the signing of a truce in the 1950-1953 Korean War, at Kim Il-sung Square in Pyongyang July 27, 2013. REUTERS/Jason Lee (NORTH KOREA - Tags: POLITICS MILITARY ANNIVERSARY)
Engineers check the base of Unha-3 (Milky Way 3) rocket sitting on a launch pad at the West Sea Satellite Launch Site, during a guided media tour by North Korean authorities in the northwest of Pyongyang April 8, 2012. REUTERS/Bobby Yip (NORTH KOREA - Tags: POLITICS MILITARY SCIENCE TECHNOLOGY)
A North Korean scientist looks at a monitor showing the Unha-3 (Milky Way 3) rocket on a launch pad at the West Sea Satellite Launch Site, at the satellite control centre of the Korean Committee of Space Technology on the outskirts of Pyongyang April 11, 2012. North Korea said on Wednesday it was injecting fuel into a long-range rocket ahead of a launch condemned by its neighbours and the West. The launch is set to take place between Thursday and next Monday and has prompted neighbours such as the Philippines to re-route their air traffic. REUTERS/Bobby Yip (NORTH KOREA - Tags: POLITICS MILITARY SCIENCE TECHNOLOGY TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY)
A soldier stands guard in front of the Unha-3 (Milky Way 3) rocket sitting on a launch pad at the West Sea Satellite Launch Site, during a guided media tour by North Korean authorities in the northwest of Pyongyang April 8, 2012. REUTERS/Bobby Yip (NORTH KOREA - Tags: POLITICS MILITARY TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY)
North Korean soldiers salute in a military vehicle carrying a missile during a parade to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the signing of a truce in the 1950-1953 Korean War, at Kim Il-sung Square in Pyongyang July 27, 2013. REUTERS/Jason Lee (NORTH KOREA - Tags: POLITICS MILITARY ANNIVERSARY)
Ko Yun-hwa (L), Administrator of Korea Meteorological Administration, points at where seismic waves observed in South Korea came from, during a media briefing at Korea Meteorological Administration in Seoul, South Korea, January 6, 2016. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
A sales assistant watches TV sets broadcasting a news report on North Korea's nuclear test, in Seoul, January 6, 2016. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Workers construct a new nuclear reactor in the North Korean village of Kumho in this file photo taken August 7, 2002. The United States urged North Korea December 21, 2002 not to restart a nuclear reactor suspected of being used to make weapons-grade plutonium. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said that North Korea had disabled surveillance devices the agency had placed at the five-megawatt Nyongbyong reactor. REUTERS/Lee Jae-won/File Photo LJW/RCS/AA
A passenger walks past a television report on North Korea's nuclear test at a railway station in Seoul February 12, 2013. North Korea conducted a nuclear test on Tuesday, South Korea's defence ministry said, after seismic activity measuring 4.9 magnitude was registered by the U.S. Geological Survey. The epicentre of the seismic activity, which was only one km below the Earth's surface, was close to the North's known nuclear test site. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji (SOUTH KOREA - Tags: POLITICS TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY)
A scientist stands beside the Kwangmyongsong-3 application satellite, to be put onto the Unha-3 (Milky Way 3) rocket at the West Sea Satellite Launch Site, during a guided media tour by North Korean authorities in the northwest of Pyongyang April 8, 2012. REUTERS/Bobby Yip (NORTH KOREA - Tags: POLITICS MILITARY SCIENCE TECHNOLOGY)
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Pyongyang has defied all calls to rein in its nuclear and missile programs, even from China, its lone major ally, saying the weapons are needed for defense against U.S. aggression.

The U.N. Security Council is due to meet on Tuesday behind closed doors to discuss the latest test, which defies Security Council resolutions and sanctions, at the request of the United States, Japan and South Korea, diplomats said on Sunday.

The test could also alter the dynamics of Moon's plan to review a controversial deployment of the THAAD U.S. anti-missile system in the South that is angrily opposed by China, which sees its powerful radar as a threat to its security.

"Saying with pride that the missile's rate of hits is very accurate and Pukguksong-2 is a successful strategic weapon, he approved the deployment of this weapon system for action," KCNA said, quoting Kim.

"EARTH IS BEAUTIFUL"

The launch verified the reliability and accuracy of the solid-fuel engine's operation and stage separation and the late-stage guidance of the nuclear warhead which was recorded by a device mounted on the warhead, KCNA said.

"Viewing the images of the Earth being sent real-time from the camera mounted on the ballistic missile, Supreme leader Kim Jong Un said it feels grand to look at the Earth from the rocket we launched and the entire world looks so beautiful," KCNA said.

The use of solid fuel presents advantages for weapons because the fuel is more stable and can be transported easily in the missile's tank allowing for a launch at very short notice.

SEE ALSO: Experts warn North Korea's nuclear weapons testing could trigger volcanic eruption

The Pukguksong-2 flew about 500 km (310 miles), reaching an altitude of 560 km, South Korea's military said.

The South's military said the test provided more "meaningful data" for the North's missile program but whether the North mastered the re-entry technology for the warhead needs additional analysis.

The reclusive state has been working to develop a nuclear-tipped missile capable of striking the U.S. mainland and on Saturday said it had developed the capability, although Western missile experts say the claim is exaggerated.

Some experts believe it will be 2030 or later for the North to develop the technology. But KCNA said last week's missile test put Hawaii and Alaska within range.

North Korea regularly threatens to destroy the United States which it accuses of preparing for invasion. South Korea hosts 28,500 U.S. troops to counter the threat from the North, a legacy of the 1950-53 Korean War.

JAPAN "CANNOT TOLERATE LAUNCH"

Experts say solid fuel engines and mobile launchers make it more difficult to detect signs of launch preparations.

"For military purposes, solid-fueled missiles have the advantage that they have the fuel loaded in them and can be launched quickly after they are moved to a launch site," David Wright, co-director of the Global Security Program at the U.S.-based Union of Concerned Scientists, said in a blog post.

"Building large solid missiles is difficult," he said, adding it took decades for major superpowers such as France and China to go from a medium-range missile to an intercontinental ballistic missile.

SEE ALSO: Trump tells Middle East: step up in fight over 'Islamist extremism'

U.S. President Donald Trump has warned that a "major, major conflict" with North Korea is possible, and in a show of force, sent the Carl Vinson aircraft carrier strike group to Korean waters to conduct drills with South Korea and Japan.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said economic and diplomatic pressure would continue.

"We cannot absolutely tolerate the missile launch on May 21 and repeated provocative remarks and actions by North Korea," Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said on Monday.

"It is important to lower North Korea's foreign currency earnings and prevent nuclear missile related shipment and technological transfer in order to prevent North Korea's nuclear missile development. We will fully implement our own sanctions against North Korea."

China repeated its call for all parties to exercise restraint to not let tension mount further.

On Monday, the South's Unification Ministry spokesman Lee Duk-haeng said while Seoul will respond firmly to any provocations by the North, "it would not be desirable to have ties between the South and the North severed."

Moon took office on May 10 after winning an election on a platform of a more moderate approach to the North, with which the South is still technically at war since no peace treaty was signed at the end of their 1950-1953 conflict.

RELATED: North Korea's May 2017 missile test

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North Korea's May 2017 missile test
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un inspects the long-range strategic ballistic rocket Hwasong-12 (Mars-12) in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on May 15, 2017. KCNA via REUTERS REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. EDITORIAL USE ONLY. REUTERS IS UNABLE TO INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THIS IMAGE. NO THIRD PARTY SALES. SOUTH KOREA OUT. TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
A man watches a television screen showing Moon Jae-in, South Korea's president, during a news broadcast on North Korea's ballistic missile launch at Seoul Station in Seoul, South Korea, on Sunday, May 14, 2017. North Korea fired a ballistic missile early Sunday, its seventh such test this year, just days after South Korea elected a president�who vowed to engage with�Kim Jong Un's regime to defuse tensions over its nuclear weapons program. Photographer: SeongJoon Cho/Bloomberg via Getty Images
The long-range strategic ballistic rocket Hwasong-12 (Mars-12) is launched during a test in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on May 15, 2017. KCNA via REUTERS REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. EDITORIAL USE ONLY. REUTERS IS UNABLE TO INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THIS IMAGE. NO THIRD PARTY SALES. SOUTH KOREA OUT.
A foreigner walks past a television screen showing an image of Kim Jong Un, leader of North Korea, center, during a news broadcast on North Korea's ballistic missile launch at Seoul Station in Seoul, South Korea, on Sunday, May 14, 2017. North Korea fired a ballistic missile early Sunday, its seventh such test this year, just days after South Korea elected a president�who vowed to engage with�Kim Jong Un's regime to defuse tensions over its nuclear weapons program. Photographer: SeongJoon Cho/Bloomberg via Getty Images
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un reacts with members of the Korean People's Army in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on May 15, 2017. KCNA via REUTERS REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. EDITORIAL USE ONLY. REUTERS IS UNABLE TO INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THIS IMAGE. NO THIRD PARTY SALES. SOUTH KOREA OUT.
A woman stands in front of a television screen showing a news broadcast on North Korea's ballistic missile launch at Seoul Station in Seoul, South Korea, on Sunday, May 14, 2017. North Korea fired a ballistic missile early Sunday, its seventh such test this year, just days after South Korea elected a president�who vowed to engage with�Kim Jong Un's regime to defuse tensions over its nuclear weapons program. Photographer: SeongJoon Cho/Bloomberg via Getty Images
The long-range strategic ballistic rocket Hwasong-12 (Mars-12) is launched during a test in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on May 15, 2017. KCNA via REUTERS REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. EDITORIAL USE ONLY. REUTERS IS UNABLE TO INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THIS IMAGE. NO THIRD PARTY SALES. SOUTH KOREA OUT.
People watch a television screen showing a news broadcast on North Korea's ballistic missile launch at Seoul Station in Seoul, South Korea, on Sunday, May 14, 2017. North Korea fired a ballistic missile early Sunday, its seventh such test this year, just days after South Korea elected a president�who vowed to engage with�Kim Jong Un's regime to defuse tensions over its nuclear weapons program. Photographer: SeongJoon Cho/Bloomberg via Getty Images
This undated picture released by North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on May 15, 2017 shows North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un (L) waving to the Korean People's Army construction department officials in Pyongyang. / AFP PHOTO / KCNA VIA KNS / STR / South Korea OUT / REPUBLIC OF KOREA OUT ---EDITORS NOTE--- RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY CREDIT 'AFP PHOTO/KCNA VIA KNS' - NO MARKETING NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS THIS PICTURE WAS MADE AVAILABLE BY A THIRD PARTY. AFP CAN NOT INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THE AUTHENTICITY, LOCATION, DATE AND CONTENT OF THIS IMAGE. THIS PHOTO IS DISTRIBUTED EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY AFP. / (Photo credit should read STR/AFP/Getty Images)
People watch a television screen showing a news broadcast on North Korea's ballistic missile launch at Seoul Station in Seoul, South Korea, on Sunday, May 14, 2017. North Korea fired a ballistic missile early Sunday, its seventh such test this year, just days after South Korea elected a president�who vowed to engage with�Kim Jong Un's regime to defuse tensions over its nuclear weapons program. Photographer: SeongJoon Cho/Bloomberg via Getty Images
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un inspects the long-range strategic ballistic rocket Hwasong-12 (Mars-12) in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on May 15, 2017. KCNA via REUTERS REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. EDITORIAL USE ONLY. REUTERS IS UNABLE TO INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THIS IMAGE. NO THIRD PARTY SALES. SOUTH KOREA OUT.
The long-range strategic ballistic rocket Hwasong-12 (Mars-12) is launched during a test in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on May 15, 2017. KCNA via REUTERS REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. EDITORIAL USE ONLY. REUTERS IS UNABLE TO INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THIS IMAGE. NO THIRD PARTY SALES. SOUTH KOREA OUT.
A man watches a television screen showing Moon Jae-in, South Korea's president, during a news broadcast on North Korea's ballistic missile launch at Seoul Station in Seoul, South Korea, on Sunday, May 14, 2017. North Korea fired a ballistic missile early Sunday, its seventh such test this year, just days after South Korea elected a president�who vowed to engage with�Kim Jong Un's regime to defuse tensions over its nuclear weapons program. Photographer: SeongJoon Cho/Bloomberg via Getty Images
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un reacts during the long-range strategic ballistic rocket Hwasong-12 (Mars-12) test launch in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on May 15, 2017. KCNA via REUTERS REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. EDITORIAL USE ONLY. REUTERS IS UNABLE TO INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THIS IMAGE. NO THIRD PARTY SALES. SOUTH KOREA OUT.
A man watches a television screen showing a news broadcast on North Korea's ballistic missile launch at Seoul Station in Seoul, South Korea, on Sunday, May 14, 2017. North Korea fired a ballistic missile early Sunday, its seventh such test this year, just days after South Korea elected a president�who vowed to engage with�Kim Jong Un's regime to defuse tensions over its nuclear weapons program. Photographer: SeongJoon Cho/Bloomberg via Getty Images
People watch a television screen showing a news broadcast on North Korea's ballistic missile launch at Seoul Station in Seoul, South Korea, on Sunday, May 14, 2017. North Korea fired a ballistic missile early Sunday, its seventh such test this year, just days after South Korea elected a president�who vowed to engage with�Kim Jong Un's regime to defuse tensions over its nuclear weapons program. Photographer: SeongJoon Cho/Bloomberg via Getty Images
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