May 23, 2017 4:55 am JST

Seoul sounds alarm over North Korea's missile capabilities

Missile tested Sunday could evade detection prior to launch

SOTARO SUZUKI, Nikkei staff writer

The solid-fuel Pukguksong-2 missile is ready for deployment, North Korea state media said. © Kyodo

SEOUL -- South Korea's military said Monday that North Korea apparently acquired "meaningful data" from Sunday's missile test that puts its neighbors at greater risk of a successful strike.

The launch of the Pukguksong-2 missile was hailed as a complete success by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, according to the state-run Korean Central News Agency. Kim also approved the deployment of the missile and ordered its mass production.

This marks North Korea's first deployment of a solid-fuel ballistic missile, which does not require fueling at the launch site.

Sunday's launch took place at 4:59 p.m. near inland Pukchang, according to the South Korean military. The missile flew east toward Japan. The test marks the last for the Pukguksong-2 before deployment, KCNA reported.

North Korea has roughly 1,000 missiles in its arsenal. Its short-range Scuds can hit South Korean targets while its Rodong missiles are capable of reaching Japan. The intermediate-range Musudan rocket could strike Guam, a U.S. territory. All of these models require liquid fuel that must be loaded at the launch site, which gives the U.S. military time to detect missiles still on the ground.

But the Pukguksong-2 can be fired quickly from a mobile launcher, allowing the missile to evade detection prior to launch, and its range stretches to Japan.

A spokesperson for South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff said Monday that although Sunday's test produced data that could enhance the reliability of North Korea's missile program, the Pukguksong-2 is not capable of reaching Guam, characterizing it as a medium-range rather than an intermediate-range missile.

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