North Korea missile could reach Alaska

First in­ter­con­ti­nen­tal missile launch claimed, flies higher and fur­ther than other tests


SEOUL, KOREA, REPUB­LIC OF — North Korea on Tues­day claimed it suc­cess­fully test-launched its first in­ter­con­ti­nen­tal bal­lis­tic missile, a po­ten­tial game-chang­ing de­vel­op­ment in what may be the world’s most dan­ger­ous nu­clear stand­off and, if true, a di­rect re­buke to U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s ear­lier dec­la­ra­tion that such a test “won’t hap­pen!”

The launch ap­peared to be North Korea’s most suc­cess­ful missile test yet. A U.S. sci­en­tist ex­am­in­ing the height and dis­tance said the missile could po­ten­tially be pow­er­ful enough to reach Alaska.

In typ­i­cally heated rhetoric, North Korea’s Academy of De­fence Science said the test of an ICBM — the Hwa­song-14 — marked the “fi­nal step” in cre­at­ing a “con­fi­dent and pow­er­ful nu­clear state that can strike any­where on Earth.”

It will be dif­fi­cult to con­firm many de­tails about what hap­pened. North Korea’s weapons pro­gram is per­haps the most closely held state secret in one of the world’s most sus­pi­cious na­tions.

Later Tues­day, the U.S. Mis­sion to the United Na­tions said Am­bas­sador Nikki Ha­ley had asked for an emer­gency meet­ing of the UN Se­cu­rity Coun­cil fol­low­ing the North Korean claim. The meet­ing is ex­pected to take place Wed­nes­day af­ter­noon.

North Korea has pre­vi­ously launched satel­lites in what crit­ics said were dis­guised tests of its lon­grange missile tech­nol­ogy. A test­launch of an ICBM, how­ever, would be a ma­jor step in de­vel­op­ing nu­clear-armed missiles that could reach any­where in the United States.

The launch sends a po­lit­i­cal warn­ing to Wash­ing­ton and its chief Asian al­lies, Seoul and Tokyo, while also al­low­ing North Korean sci­en­tists a chance to per­fect their still-in­com­plete nu­clear missile pro­gram. It came on the eve of the U.S. In­de­pen­dence Day hol­i­day, days af­ter the first face-to-face meet­ing of the lead­ers of South Korea and the United States.

U.S., South Korean and Ja­panese of­fi­cials say the missile flew for about 40 min­utes and reached an al­ti­tude of 2,500 kilo­me­tres (1,500 miles), which would be longer and higher than any sim­i­lar North Korean test pre­vi­ously re­ported. One U.S. missile sci­en­tist, David Wright, es­ti­mated that the highly lofted missile, if the re­ported time and dis­tance are cor­rect, could have a pos­si­ble max­i­mum range of 6,700 kilo­me­tres (4,160 miles), which could put Alaska in its range.

Hamish de Bret­ton-Gor­don, a former com­mand­ing of­fi­cer of the Bri­tish Armed Forces Joint Chem­i­cal Bi­o­log­i­cal Ra­di­o­log­i­cal Nu­clear Reg­i­ment, said that “in ca­pa­bil­ity of missile terms and de­liv­ery, it is a ma­jor step up and they seem to be mak­ing progress week-on-week.” He added, how­ever, that “ac­tu­ally mar­ry­ing the war­head to the missile is prob­a­bly the big­gest chal­lenge, which they ap­pear not to have pro­gressed on.”


This photo dis­trib­uted by the North Korean gov­ern­ment shows what was said to be the launch of a Hwa­song-14 in­ter­con­ti­nen­tal bal­lis­tic missile.

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