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.

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