North Korea Claims to Have Tested Its First Intercontinental Ballistic Missile Threatening US

A handout photo made available by the official North Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) allegedly shows the North Korean inter-continental ballistic rocket Hwasong-14 being prepared before a test launch at an undisclosed location in North Korea, 04 July 2017. Photo: KCNA handout/EPA/REX/Shutterstock

  • North Korea has claimed that its latest missile test was of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).
  • North Korean regime’s long-term goal has been to develop a nuclear-tipped ICBM capable of striking the US mainland.
  • It has called the rocket test a “phenomenal event in our history”.
  • South Korea’s military says the missile may have traversed 6,000 km (3,700 miles).
  • US military described the rocket as an intermediate range ballistic missile (IRBM), not an ICBM.
  • Latest test firing by North Korea is likely to exacerbate sanctions against the regime.

The regime of North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un has alleged that the ballistic missile it test-fired earlier on Tuesday was its first intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), the weapon it had been trying to develop in order to threaten the US mainland.

The ballistic missile tested by North Korea on Tuesday traveled some 900 km (560 miles) before it fell in the Sea of the Japan, likely in Japan’s exclusive economic zone.

It is North Korea’s 12th rocket test (and ninth successful one) since US President Donald Trump assumed office in January.

Last week, a US nuclear expert warned that Kim Jong-un might be coming closer to being able to produce a hydrogen bomb, also known as thermonuclear weapon, as it is able to produce tritium, a key element.

North Korea recently carried out a new test of a rocket engine that could be used for powering an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), the weapon that can threaten directly the US mainland.

On behalf of the Kim Jong-un regime, North Korea’s Ambassador to India recently offered the US a conditional moratorium on his country’s nuclear and ballistic missile tests.

The offer came against the backdrop of the death of US college student Otto Warmbier who passed away after 17 months in North Korean captivity, and for which Pyongyang denied responsibility, and of South Korea’s decision to suspend the further deployment of the US THAAD missile shield.

In an earlier ballistic missile provocation, in early June, North Korea fired several anti-ship cruise missiles.

Ongoing activity and a large number of people have been spotted at North Korea’s nuclear test site, the Punggye-ri Nuclear Test Facility, amid lingering concerns that the regime of leader Kim Jong-un could carry out its sixth nuclear test.

There have been reports that North Korea has been bracing for a preemptive US missile strike similar to the missile strike on the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in response to the April 4 attack with chemical weapons.

In early June, the US Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) imposed new sanctions on North Korea and entities trading with it over its ongoing development of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and continued violations of UN Security Council resolutions.

Pedestrians walk past a TV screen showing North Korean leader Kim Jong-un on a street broadcasting news of North Korea’s latest missile launch, in Tokyo, Japan, 04 July 2017. Photo: Kimmasa Mayama/EPA/REX/Shutterstock

‘Phenomenal Event’

North Korea claimed on Tuesday in a report carried by its official news agency that the rocket it had just tested, the Hwasong-14, was an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) – whose development has been the long-term goal of the Kim Jong-un regime, South Korean news agency Yonhap reported.

North Korea test-fired the missile, called the Hwasong-14, under the observance of its leader Kim Jong-un, according to the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA). Kim signed an order for the test-fire, it added.

It said the missile reached an altitude of 2,802 km (1,740 miles) and flew 933 km (577 miles) for 39 minutes before hitting a target in the East Sea.

“The success of the ICBM launch at its first trial is the final gateway to completing our nuclear force. It marked a phenomenal event in our history as we are seeking the simultaneous pursuit of nuclear and economic development,” the KCNA said.

North Korea called itself a “full-fledged nuclear power” that possesses ICBMs that can hit targets in any place in the world.

A South Korean military source said that the missile is presumed to have reached an altitude of more than 2,300 km (1,430 miles). If launched at a standard angle, it may have traversed some 6,000 km (3,700 miles).

Even though the North Korean propaganda mouthpiece touted the success of its intercontinental ballistic missile launch, the US military characterized the tested rocket as a “land-based, intermediate-range” missile (IRBM).

North Korea’s leader said in his New Year’s message that the country has entered the final stage of preparing to launch an ICBM capable of hitting the US mainland, Yonhap reminds. His regime has been working on developing a nuclear-tipped ICBM.

Experts have said that North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs are advancing, but it may be years away from mastering the technology needed for ICBM development since mastering warhead miniaturization, as well as re-entry technologies, have long been considered two major challenges Pyongyang should overcome if it wants to develop a nuclear ICBM capable of striking the continental US.

The alleged ICBM launch by North Korea came on the heels of the summit between US President Donald Trump and South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in who agreed last week to keep applying sanctions against the North’s nuclear and missile provocations but also left the door open for dialogue “under the right circumstances.”

Kim Han-kwon, a professor at Korea National Diplomatic Academy, said that the missile test is likely to considerably debilitate South Korea’s aspirations for dialogue with North Korea.

“As North Korea’s ICBM launch means it effectively crossed the red line, sanctions and pressure would be applied on the North,” said Koh Yu-hwan, a professor at Dongguk University.

“Resolving its nuclear issue is likely to considerably take time,” he added.

North Korea has carried out five nuclear tests since 2006 and it test-fired about 30 ballistic missiles last year alone.

The latest North Korean missile launch, and an alleged ICBM launch at that, comes just two days before the start of the G-20 meeting in Hamburg, Germany, where Trump, Moon, and Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe are scheduled to hold a trilateral summit.

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