North Korea claims it has successfully tested an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) for the first time, saying the weapon could “reach anywhere in the world.“
Tuesday morning’s missile test, which was conducted on the orders of the country’s leader, Kim Jong Un, reached a height of 2,802 kilometres (1741 miles), according to state broadcaster Korea Central Television (KCTV).
“As a strongest nuclear state with the best ICBM rockets, North Korea will end the US nuclear war threats and defence peace and stability of the Korean peninsula,” the announcer said on air.
North Korea often times its missile tests to have the maximum geopolitical impact and Tuesday’s looked to be no exception, coming on the July 4 holiday in the US, ahead of the G20 meeting later this week and after US President Donald Trump spoke with Japanese and Chinese leaders Sunday about the North Korea threat.
A missile capable of reaching the United States topped with a nuclear warhead is thought to be Pyongyang’s ultimate goal.
The missile, referred to as Hwasong-14 on state TV flew into waters east of the Korean Peninsula and may have landed in Japan’s Exclusive Economic Zone, which extends 200 nautical miles from its coastline, according to a Japanese defence official.
“It didn’t give any negative effects to neighbouring countries’ safety,” the KCTV report stated.
It was launched from Panghyon, in North Pyongan province and travelled more than 930 kilometres (578 miles) according to South Korea’s military — further than a May 14 missile launch that analysts described as its most successful test ever.
That launch reached a then-record altitude of around 2,100 kilometres (1,300 miles).
It’s North Korea’s 11th missile test this year and comes amid increasing frustration from Trump about the lack of progress in curbing Pyongyang’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs.
Trump quickly reacted to the launch on Twitter. “North Korea has just launched another missile. Does this guy have anything better to do with his life?” he asked, referring to Kim.
“Hard to believe that South Korea and Japan will put up with this much longer. Perhaps China will put a heavy move on North Korea and end this nonsense once and for all!”
Melissa Hanham, a senior research associate at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies, said the ICBM test puts the US in a difficult negotiating position.
“I think there’s room for negotiation, but it’s not the kind of negotiations we want,” she said.
The US can now only work toward limiting, not eliminating the North Korean missile threat to the US mainland, she added.
North Korea analysts are awaiting the country’s sixth nuclear test, and are watching for signs that the regime is able to miniaturise a warhead and fit in on a missile.
A threat to the US?
The US Pacific Command said it tracked the missile for 37 minutes and described it as a “land-based, intermediate range ballistic missile.” Japan reported that its flight time was 40 minutes.
“The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) assessed that the missile launch from North Korea did not pose a threat to North America,” a statement from US Pacific Command said.
David Wright, director of the Global Security Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists, said if US Pacific Command reports on the distance and flight time of the missile are correct, the missile could have a maximum range of 6,700 kilo meters (4,160 miles).
“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 wrote on the All Things Nuclear blog.
On Friday, Trump declared US patience with North Korea was “over.”
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told reporters Tuesday that the launch “ignores repeated warnings from the international community,” and that “the launch this time shows its threat was further increased.”
‘Out of control’?
Trump has repeatedly urged China, North Korea’s neighbour to the north and one of the only countries in the region with diplomatic ties to Pyongyang, to bring its influence to bear on the issue.
He recently tweeted that Chinese efforts on North Korea, while appreciated, had “not worked out.”
On Monday Liu Jieyi, China’s ambassador to the UN warned of the risk of escalating tensions on the peninsula.
“Certainly we would like to see a de-escalation of tension,” he said in remarks to the press as China assumed the United Nations Security Council presidency for July.
“Certainly if tension goes up and goes up only then sooner or later it will get out of control and the consequences will be disastrous,” Liu said.