North Korean missile test puts much of continental U.S. within range
Many analysts surprised by how quickly country has developed missile programs
PYONGYANG, NORTH KOREA — North Korea on Friday test-fired its second intercontinental ballistic missile, which flew longer and higher than the first according to its wary neighbours, leading analysts to conclude that a wide swath of the U.S., including Los Angeles and Chicago, is now within range of Pyongyang’s weapons.
Japanese government spokesperson Yoshihide Suga said the missile, launched late Friday flew for about 45 minutes — about five minutes longer than the ICBM North Korea test-fired on July 4. The missile was launched on very high trajectory, which limited the distance it travelled, and landed west of Japan’s island of Hokkaido.
“We assess that this missile was an intercontinental ballistic missile, as had been expected,” Pentagon spokesperson navy Capt. Jeff Davis said in Washington.
Analysts had estimated that the North’s first ICBM could have reached Alaska, and said Friday that the latest missile appeared to extend that range significantly.
David Wright, a physicist and co-director of the global security program at the Union of Concerned Scientists, said in Washington that if reports of the missile’s maximum altitude and flight time are correct, it would have a theoretical range of at least 10,400 kilometres. That means it could have reached Los Angeles, Denver and Chicago, depending on variables such as the size and weight of the warhead that would be carried atop such a missile in an actual attack.
Bruce Klingner, a Korean and Japanese aff airs specialist at the Heritage Foundation think-tank in Washington, said, “It now appears that a significant portion of the continental United States is within range” of North Korean missiles. Klingner recently met with North Korean officials to discuss denuclearization, the think-tank said.
Washington and its allies have watched with growing concern as Pyongyang has made significant progress toward its goal of having all of the U.S. within range of its missiles to counter what it labels as U.S. aggression. There are other hurdles, including building nuclear warheads to fit on those missiles and ensuring reliability. But many analysts have been surprised by how quickly leader Kim Jong Un has developed North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs despite several rounds of UN Security Council sanctions that have squeezed the impoverished country’s economy.
President Donald Trump has said he will not allow North Korea to obtain an ICBM that can deliver a nuclear warhead.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe called the launch a “serious and real threat” to the country’s security.
Suga, the Japanese spokesperson, said Japan has lodged a strong protest with North Korea.
“North Korea’s repeated provocative acts absolutely cannot be accepted,” he said.
A spokesperson for Gen. Joseph Dunford, chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Friday that Dunford met at the Pentagon with the commander of U.S. forces in the Pacific, Adm. Harry Harris, to discuss U.S. military options in light of North Korea’s missile test.
The spokesperson, navy Capt. Greg Hicks, said Dunford and Harris called Dunford’s South Korean counterpart, Gen. Lee Sun Jin. Dunford and Harris “expressed the ironclad commitment to the U.S.-Republic of Korea alliance,” Hicks said, referring to the U.S. defence treaty that obliges the U.S. to defend South Korea.
Prime Minister Abe said Japan would cooperate closely with the U.S., South Korea and other nations to step up pressure on North Korea to halt its missile programs.