This would make it the most powerful of the three ICBM’s North Korea has tested so far. Furthermore, the mobile night launch appeared aimed at testing new capabilities and demonstrating that Pyongyang would be able to strike back to any attempt at a preventative strike against the regime.
“The missile was launched from Sain Ni, North Korea, and traveled about 1,000 km before splashing down in the Sea of Japan, within Japan’s economic exclusion zone. We are working with our interagency partners on a more detailed assessment of the launch,” Pentagon spokesman, Col Robert Manning said.
This is concerning for one big reason: according to General Mattis, the North Korean ICBM “went higher, frankly, than any previous” and “North Korea can basically threaten everywhere in the world.” This was confirmed by North Korea missile analyst, Shea Cotton, who cited Allthingsnuclear author David Wright, and who told the BBC that the initial estimates of the ICBM test mean that North Korea can now reach New York and Washington DC.
How did North Korea develop such an advanced ICBM? Here, as Michael Duitsman, research associate at the center for nonproliferation studies recalls “the DPRK reportedly tested a new engine a few weeks ago, so #2 makes sense. The second stage burn time on the first two HS-14 tests was crazy long, so it could benefit from a different engine.”
Other experts had similar ominous conclusions: here is Vipin Narang, polisci professor at MIT, who noted the following quick implications from the DPRK ICBM night launch:
1. They want us to know they can hit eastern seaboard
2. Which means they probably got a higher thrust 2nd stage working
1. Night launch helps with readiness, survivability, penetration.
His conclusion: “It’s real folks.”
A good visual summary of the new ICBM range is showin below: as noted, its estimated range covers all of US. 10,000km (yellow) 13,000km.
Finally, here is opinion of David Wright, physicist and co-director of the UCS Global Security Program, whose insight on North Korean launches has emerged as one of the most informative over the past year.
North Korea’s Longest Missile Test Yet
After more than two months without a missile launch, North Korea did a middle-of-the-night test (3:17 am local time) today that appears to be its longest yet.
Reports are saying that the missile test was highly lofted and landed in the Sea of Japan some 960 km (600 miles) from the launch site. They are also saying the missile reached a maximum altitude of 4,500 km. This would mean that it flew for about 54 minutes, which is consistent with reports from Japan.
If these numbers are correct, then if flown on a standard trajectory rather than this lofted trajectory, this missile would have a range of more than 13,000 km (8,100 miles). This is significantly longer than North Korea’s previous long range tests, which flew on lofted trajectories for 37 minutes (July 4) and 47 minutes (July 28). Such a missile would have more than enough range to reach Washington, DC, and in fact any part of the continental United States.
We do not know how heavy a payload this missile carried, but given the increase in range it seems likely that it carried a very light mock warhead. If true, that means it would not be capable of carrying a nuclear warhead to this long distance, since such a warhead would be much heavier.
The question now is what Trump meant when late on Tuesday, in response to a question how the US would respond to the latest ICBM launch, he said “we will handle it.”