US believes North Korea launched KN-17 missile

PHOTO: South Koreans watch a television displaying news broadcasts reporting on North Koreas recent ballistic missile launch, at a station in Seoul, South Korea, May 14, 2017. PlayJeon Heon-Kyun/EPA
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The U.S. believes the ballistic missile North Korea launched on Saturday was a KN-17 medium-range missile, not a new intermediate-range missile, as had been speculated. The launch was the first successful test of the missile. Three previous launches, in April, ended in failure.

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The initial assessment by U.S. intelligence is that the missile launched by North Korea was a KN-17, a medium-range ballistic missile, according to two U.S. officials. The liquid fueled single-stage KN-17 may be intended to be an anti-ship missile.

Launched from Kusong, in western North Korea, the missile flew for 435 miles before landing in the Sea of Japan.

U.S. Pacific Command said in a statement Saturday that the type of missile launched by North Korea was still being assessed but that it "was not consistent with an intercontinental ballistic missile."

Saturday's test was the first successful flight of the KN-17. On the first of its three previous launches, the missile spun out of control into the Sea of Japan after traveling 34 miles. The second missile exploded seconds after launch. The third missile, in a test two weeks ago, broke up over North Korea after traveling 21 miles.

The failures had made it difficult for the U.S. to determine the KN-17's full range capability.

Japanese Defense Minister Tomomi Inada told reporters Sunday that the missile launched Saturday reached an unprecedented altitude of 2,000 kilometers, or almost 1,250 miles, which led to speculation that North Korea had developed a new intermediate-range missile.

But U.S. officials did not seem as concerned by the altitude reached by the single-stage KN-17.

Saturday's launch was the seventh North Korean missile launch this year, all since Donald Trump took office.

North Korea has continued with its missile program despite United Nations Security Council resolutions barring such activity. The country's stated goal is to develop a missile capable of carrying a nuclear warhead that could strike the U.S. mainland.

The most recent launch came days after Moon Jae-in was sworn in as South Korea's president. Moon campaigned on improved relations with North Korea and expressed a willingness to visit that country under the right circumstances.

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