Officials from the US and the Republic of Korea said that North Korea successfully launched a mid-range ballistic missile Sunday, the Associated Press reported. US Pacific Command tracked the missile until it flew into the sea. The ROK said the missile flew 500 km. White House officials told the AP the missile had a shorter range than the one launched last week from Kusang. However, South Korean officials said the launch of the ground-to-ground Pukguksong-2 missile from a mobile launch vehicle provided the North with “meaningful” data that could be used to advance its missile program. It also used solid fuel rather than liquid fuel, meaning the missile can be loaded with fuel before it arrives at its launch site making it more difficult to track, reported the New York Times.
The Air Force recently conducted two Minuteman III ICBM test launches. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford confirmed Friday at a Pentagon strategy briefing that those launches were routine and were not “intended at all to be provocative to North Korea.” At the same briefing, Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis told reporters that he is “aware of the provocative actions” North Korea has taken, and that their ongoing missile tests show that members of the regime in Pyongyang “clearly aren’t listening” to international demands. He advised patience, however, because “there appears to be some impact by the Chinese” in their efforts to pressure North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons program. “If this goes to a military solution,” Mattis warned, “it is going to be tragic on an unbelievable scale.”