North Korea yesterday declared that it had successfully tested its first intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) — a watershed moment in its push to develop a nuclear weapon capable of hitting the mainland US.
US experts said the device could reach Alaska and the launch, which came as Americans prepared to mark Independence Day, triggered a Twitter outburst from US President Donald Trump, who urged China to act to “end this nonsense once and for all.”
North Korea’s possession of an ICBM — something that Trump has vowed “won’t happen” — would force a fundamental recalculation of the strategic threat posed by the isolated, impoverished state.
Photo: KCNA via Reuters
The “landmark” test-fire of a Hwasong-14 missile was overseen by North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, an emotional female announcer said on state television.
The broadcaster showed Kim’s handwritten order to carry out the launch and pictures of him grinning in celebration, clenching his fist.
The rocket was “a very powerful ICBM that can strike any place in the world,” the announcer said, and “a major breakthrough in the history of our republic.”
In a statement, the North Korean Academy of Defense Science, which developed the missile, said it reached an altitude of 2,802km and flew 933km, calling it the “final gate to rounding off the state nuclear force.”
There are still doubts about whether North Korea can miniaturize a nuclear weapon sufficiently to fit it onto a missile nose cone or if it has mastered the technology needed for it to survive the difficult re-entry into the atmosphere, but the nation has made great progress in its missile capabilities since the ascension to power of Kim, who has overseen three nuclear tests and multiple rocket launches.
In response to the launch, but before the North Korean announcement, Trump asked on Twitter: “Does this guy have anything better to do with his life?”
US Pacific Command confirmed the test and said it was a land-based, intermediate range missile that flew for 37 minutes before splashing down in the Sea of Japan, adding that the launch did not pose a threat to North America.
The Russian Ministry of Defense called it medium-range in a statement to Russian news agencies, but Tokyo estimated its maximum altitude to have “greatly exceeded” 2,500km, prompting arms control specialist Jeffrey Lewis to respond on Twitter: “That’s it. It’s an ICBM. An ICBM that can hit Anchorage not San Francisco, but still.”
“This launch clearly shows that the threat has grown,” Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told reporters.
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