The missile North Korea fired Sunday may be able to reach Alaska, Hawaii

posted at 1:01 pm on May 15, 2017 by John Sexton

North Korea carried out another missile test Sunday and, unlike the test last month, this one was a success. According to Tokyo, the missile flew for roughly 30 minutes, traveling to a height of 1,240 miles before falling back into the sea. From the Associated Press:

North Korea said it fired the missile at a high angle to avoid neighboring countries.

If it had been fired at a normal angle, analysts say, it could have flown much farther — estimates vary between 4,000 and 7,000 kilometers (2,500 and 4,350 miles), the upper number putting Alaska and possibly Hawaii within striking distance.

“This is a very uncomfortable development for the United States,” said Lee Illwoo, a Seoul-based commentator on military issues.

North Korea also claimed the new missile was capable of carrying a nuclear weapon though observers are less confident about that claim:

North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency called the missile a “new ground-to-ground medium long-range strategic ballistic rocket,” and said the “Hwasong-12″ was “capable of carrying a large, heavy nuclear warhead.”…

North Korea is not thought to be able yet to make a nuclear warhead small enough to mount on a long-range missile, though some outside analysts think it can arm shorter-range missiles with warheads. Each new nuclear and longer-range missile test is part of the North’s attempt to build a nuclear-tipped intercontinental ballistic missile.

The AP also reports that, according to state media, Kim warned, “the U.S. should not … disregard or misjudge the reality that its mainland and Pacific operation region are in (North Korea’s) sighting range for strike.”

In response to the test, the White House issued a statement saying North Korea had been a “flagrant menace for far too long.” U.S. Ambassador the United Nations Nikki Haley tweeted Sunday about the potential danger this test represents to Russia and China:

President Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin discussed the situation at a forum they were both attending in Bejing, but later Russia issued a statement downplaying the test as “no danger.”

Significant numbers of U.S. soldiers in South Korea and Japan are already within North Korea’s reach. But this new missile may put U.S. civilian populations within range. Given that Kim’s propaganda routinely features nuclear strikes on Washington, D.C. that’s a worrisome new development.


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