North Korean leader Kim Jong-un inspects the long-range strategic ballistic rocket Hwasong-12 in this undated image. Photo: KCNA via Reuters

North Korea said on Monday it had successfully tested the guidance system on a ballistic missile and that images from an onboard camera showed the world to be “beautiful.”

“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,” the North’s KCNA news agency said.

The test suggests progress in the North’s stated aim to build intercontinental missiles capable of hitting US targets.

Kim supervised the test, which also verified the functioning of the solid-fuel engine, and ordered the Pukguksong-2 missile to be deployed, according to KCNA.

North Korea has defied all UN Security Council demands to end its missile program, which is seen as part of an effort to build a rocket capable of carrying a nuclear weapon. Pyongyang argues the weapons are needed for self-defense, ignoring even pleas from China, it’s economic lifeline and sole major ally.

Launch of the Pukguksong-2 missile in this undated photo released by the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang February 13, 2017. KCNA/Reuters.

The missile flew about 500 km (310 miles), reaching an altitude of 560 kilometers before ditching in the sea off North Korea’s east coast, South Korea’s military said on Sunday. The latest test follows the successful firing last week of a longer-range missile.

The test provided more “meaningful data” for the North’s missile program but whether they have mastered re-entry technology needed for a warhead needs additional analysis, according to the South’s military.

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,” 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.

“So this is not something that will happen soon, but with time North Korea will be able to do it,” Wright said.

More sanctions

An official traveling with U.S. President Donald Trump in Saudi Arabia said the White House was aware of the latest launch. US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said economic and diplomatic pressure would continue to be applied to North Korea.

Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said on Monday it’s important to cut off North Korea’s access to foreign currency and missile technology. 

Two missile tests in a week complicate plans by South Korea’s new President Moon Jae-in to reduce tension on the peninsula.

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

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.”

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