North Korea launched another missile Friday and this one appears to be a big leap forward over previous launches. Reuters is reporting, based on anonymous U.S. officials, that the latest launch could have reached the continental U.S.
North Korea’s latest test of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) has shown that Pyongyang now may be able to reach most of the continental United States, two U.S. officials told Reuters on Monday.
The assessment, which the officials discussed on condition of anonymity, underscored the growing threat posed by Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile programs, and could add pressure on President Donald Trump’s administration to respond…
Independent weapons experts also said they believed the launch demonstrated many parts of the United States were within range if the missile had been launched at a flattened trajectory.
To put this in some perspective, at the beginning of July, the U.S. assessment was that North Korea could have a nuclear ICBM capable of reaching some parts of the U.S. before the end of Trump’s first term. Then, exactly one week ago, the Washington Post reported that the Pentagon’s Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) had shaved a full two years off that estimate. The DIA was now convinced North Korea would have a nuclear ICBM by next year. One week later and we’re now hearing that North Korea already has an ICBM capable of reaching most of the U.S.
There were two outstanding issues raised in last week’s Washington Post report. One was about the ability of the North Koreans to control a warhead on re-entry. From Reuters:
The flight demonstrated successful stage separation, and reliability of the vehicle’s control and guidance to allow the warhead to make an atmospheric re-entry under conditions harsher than under a normal long-range trajectory, KCNA said.
KCNA is the North Korean state-controlled media so take that report with a grain of salt. However, no one Reuters spoke with seems to be discounting this claim for the moment.
The other outstanding question was whether or not North Korea could miniaturize a nuclear weapon to make it useable as an ICBM warhead. There were pictures published last year of Kim Jong-un standing next to what North Korea claimed was a miniature nuke but apparently, this hasn’t been confirmed to the satisfaction of the U.S. intelligence community.
— José Miguel Sardo (@jmsardo) March 9, 2016
In just a few weeks, North Korea has gone from being a potential nuclear threat to the U.S. mainland a few years from now, to quite possibly being a threat right now.