North Korea has successfully test-fired what appears to be a long-range missile capable of reaching the U.S. state of Alaska, North Korea and foreign experts say. It marks a significant development for the country’s missile program.
The missile was launched at 9:10 a.m. local time on Tuesday from Panghyon Airfield in North Pyongan Province, according to the U.S. and South Korean governments. It flew for more than half an hour before falling into waters off its eastern coast.
Hours later, North Korean state-run television announced in a special broadcast that the missile had traveled 933 kilometers (580 miles), reaching an altitude of 2,802 kilometers (1,741 miles). The missile flew for about 39 minutes.
The achievement was confirmed by South Korea and Japan, both of which provided similar figures.
Missile expert David Wright, a co-director of the Global Security Program at the U.S.-based Union of Concerned Scientists, said the data suggests the missile would be capable of flying at least 6,700 kilometers (4,160 miles) if flown on a standard trajectory.
“That range would not be enough to reach the lower 48 states or the large islands of Hawaii, but would allow it to reach all of Alaska,” Wright explained. It makes it North Korea’s first ICBM, which are missiles that are capable of flying more than 5,500 kilometers (3,400 miles).
An announcer on state-run television said the missile is a newly-developed Hwasong-14 missile, though remains unclear if Tuesday’s test demonstrated its maximum range. The announcer said North Korean leader Kim Jong Un gave the order for the launch on Monday.
“As a full-fledged nuclear power that has been possessed of the most powerful inter-continental ballistic rocket capable of hitting any part of the world, the DPRK will fundamentally put an end to the U.S. nuclear war threat and blackmail and reliably defend the peace and stability of the Korean peninsula,” the North said in a statement.
Tuesday’s test came less than two months after North Korea fired a newly-developed mid-to-long range ballistic missile capable of reaching the U.S. territory of Guam. North Korea hailed the launch as a major success and said the Hwasong-12 missile was capable of carrying a nuclear warhead.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzō Abe said Tuesday’s test shows that North Korea’s threat is increasing, according to the Kyodo news agency. He added that he would seek to put more pressure on North Korea in coordination with South Korea and the United States.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in called an emergency meeting of the National Security Council to discuss how to respond to the North’s missile test. He later voiced his condemnation of the test, saying they were in violation of UN Security Council resolutions.
And in the U.S., President Donald Trump condemned the launch in messages on his Twitter account. “Does this guy have anything better to do with his life? Hard to believe that South Korea and Japan will put up with this much longer,” he said, apparently referring to Kim Jong Un.
“Perhaps China will put a heavy move on North Korea and end this nonsense once and for all!”, the president said before the ICBM announcement. China’s foreign ministry, for its part, called for calm and restraint from all sides.
Tuesday’s test follows months of escalating tensions on the Korean Peninsula, fueled by North Korea’s missile tests and its advancing nuclear weapons program, as well as U.S. military exercises and statements by President Trump.
The most recent missile tests took place on June 8, when North Korea fired a salvo of short-range cruise missiles. Trump called Japanese and Chinese leaders on Sunday to discuss what the American leader called a “growing threat” from North Korea.
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