North Korea is reporting that their missile test launch early Tuesday was a success, and that it marks their first successful launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), a significant milestone in a missile development program that has had a lot of recent failures.
US military analysts expressed “high confidence” that the report of an ICBM launch was correct, and private scientists said the missile, which is being dubbed the Hwasong-14, demonstrated a range of at least 4,100 miles, which would allow it to reach any spot in Alaska.
As tested, the missile flew some 578 miles, landing in the sea just west of Japan, with Japanese officials complaining that it landed in their exclusive economic zone, albeit not hitting anything. The missile was initially thought to be a single stage missile, but had a secondary stage which added to its flight time.
Officials say this is sooner than they expected North Korea to have such a delivery capability by a couple of years, though it is still generally accepted that North Korea does not have the capability of miniaturizing their nuclear warheads to launch them from such a missile, a development which may itself take quite some time.
Still, the launch earned rebukes from Russia and China, who are trying to talk down the risk of a US attack on North Korea, and led to a new push by President Trump for China to put “a heavy move” on North Korea, or risk having the US make its own move.
That this test comes just weeks after the US was reported to have rejected a deal that would’ve seen North Korea end all missile and nuclear testing makes it seem like a particular blunder from Trump, however, as he appears reluctant to solve the situation through diplomacy, and the threats to attack have North Korea rushing through the stages to enhance their retaliatory capability.