North Korea has successfully test-fired a long-range missile capable of reaching all of the United States, missile experts and officials say, making it the country’s third and most advanced test of an intercontinental ballistic missile.
The missile was launched at 2:47 a.m, local time on Wednesday from a site near Pyongsong in South Pyongan Province, according to South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff. It flew eastward and flew for about 50 minutes before falling into waters of Japan’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ)..
An initial assessment from the South Korean military said the missile reached an altitude of 4,500 kilometers (2,800 miles) and traveled a distance of 960 kilometers (600 miles), which makes it an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).
The data suggests that the missile would be capable of reaching most of the world – except South America and parts of Africa – if flown at a standard trajectory, according to missile experts. The North’s missiles had previously demonstrated a capability to reach major U.S. cities such as Los Angeles and Chicago.
David Wright, a co-director of the Global Security Program at the U.S.-based Union of Concerned Scientists, pointed out that the range would be less if the payload during missile tests does not have the weight of a nuclear warhead. “Given the increase in range it seems likely that it carried a very light mock warhead,” he said.
Nonetheless, the results vastly exceed those of the long-range missile tests on July 4 and July 28.
The South Korean military responded by launching a live-fire missile exercise near its eastern sea border with North Korea. The 20-minute drill, during which 3 missiles were fired at simulated targets off the eastern coast, began just 6 minutes after the North’s missile launch.
North Korea’s latest missile launch was immediately condemned by South Korea, Japan, the United States, and the European Union. The United Nations Security Council will convene an emergency meeting at 4:30 p.m. ET on Wednesday to discuss the international response.
In the United States, President Donald Trump would only say that the U.S. will “take care of it,” but added that Wednesday’s missile test had not changed his approach to North Korea. It’s a “situation we will handle,” he told reporters.
U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson condemned the missile test and called on the international community to uphold economic and diplomatic sanctions. Additionally, Tillerson called for the UN Security Council to provide the right to interdict ships carrying goods to and from North Korea.
Wednesday’s test followed indications from both Japan and the United States that North Korea was preparing to launch a missile, possibly as part of the army’s winter training. The country’s most recent missile launch happened on September 15, when it flew a missile over Japan.
Tensions on the Korean Peninsula have been escalating for months, fueled by North Korea’s frequent missile tests and its advancing nuclear weapons program, as well as U.S. military exercises and threatening statements by President Donald Trump.
North Korea test-fired two long-range missiles in July, including one which in theory is capable of reaching large parts of the U.S. mainland. North Korea also carried out its sixth and most advanced nuclear test to date on September 3, which led to a new round of UN sanctions.
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