North Korea Missile Program Advancing Faster Than Expected, South's Defense Minister Says

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The missile flew 489 miles on a trajectory reaching an altitude of 1,312 miles, KCNA said.

Outsiders saw a significant technological jump in the weekend test, with the rocket apparently flying higher and for a longer time than any other such previous missile. The missile flew nearly 500 miles across North Korea and over water before slamming harmlessly into the Sea of Japan between Japan and Russian Federation.

North Korea has rebuffed cries for it to cease missile and nuclear testing, calling each of them acts of self defense.

"To that end, the Security Council demanded the Democratic People's Republic of Korea conduct no further nuclear and ballistic missile tests", the council said, adding that it was ready to impose further sanctions on the country.

Despite North Korea's claim that Sunday's test simulated a re-entry situation, South Korean defense officials say the North probably has yet to master the technology. Newly elected President Moon Jae-in said the South had to "learn to say 'no, '" to the USA and to exhaust diplomatic ways of resolving issues with the North. The United States is in talks with China - Pyongyang's sole major ally and main trading partner - on a possible new sanctions resolution and the council is expected to discuss its steps during a closed-door meeting starting around 2000 GMT Tuesday.

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Aside from Pyongyang's space launches, Jeffrey Lewis of the Middlebury Institute of International Studies in the USA told AFP: "This is the longest-range missile North Korea has ever tested". North Korea, however, thus far has not displayed the capability to produce a nuclear warhead sufficiently compact to fly on its missiles. But outside experts said Pyongyang seems to be still years away from doing so.

"If the USA dares opt for a military provocation against the DPRK, we are ready to counter it", it said.

In April Pyongyang put dozens of missiles on show at a giant military parade through the capital, including one that appeared to be the type launched on Sunday.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un inspects a Hwasong-12 in an undated photo released by the state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on Monday. South Korean President Moon Jae-in said the test was a "reckless provocation" and clear violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions.

Amid growing tensions over Pyongyang's array of missile tests, Beijing in February banned imports of North Korean coal citing United Nations resolutions for all of its measures against North Korea Coal is North Korea's main export and an important source of foreign currencies for its economy and China is its major importer.

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