North Korea Missile Launch: The Most Important Things to Know
Albanian Daily News
Published November 29, 2017
North Korea broke a two-month lull in weapons testing with a dramatic launch of its most advanced missile yet, an intercontinental ballistic missile it claims can reach the "whole" US mainland.
The country's state media declared the Hwasong-15 missile was "the most powerful ICBM" which carried a "super-large heavy warhead" to unprecedented heights of almost 4,500 kilometers (2,800 miles).
It was a dramatic show of force and technical capabilities from Pyongyang, which had not conducted any military tests since September 15, raising suggestions that perhaps the rogue country was heeding warnings to halt its provocations and cease its weapons program.
North Korea's last test in September set off a firestorm of condemnation in the region and beyond, with multiple warnings from US President Donald Trump, including one issued during his stop in South Korea where he implored North Korea, "do not try us."
In recent days, US officials told CNN they were puzzled why there hadn't been a test in recent weeks, and on Monday, Russia's deputy foreign minister said Moscow greatly valued the North Korean regime's "silence."
Any hope that Pyongyang's silence could be interpreted as compliance seems to be misplaced.
A North Korean official told CNN following Wednesday's launch Pyongyang was not interested in diplomacy with the US until it had fully demonstrated its nuclear deterrent capabilities.
Reiterating remarks made in the past, the official said one step was to conduct an above-ground nuclear detonation or "large-scale hydrogen bomb" test. The other was the "testing of a long-range ICBM," the implication being this had been achieved with the most recent launch.
In a statement following the test, Pyongyang said the Hwasong-15 "meets the goal of the completion of the rocket weaponry system development."
Wednesday's missile reached an altitude of up to 4,475 kilometers (2,800 miles), higher than any previous launch, a North Korea reading that was in line with estimates released by Japan and South Korea.
The missile was fired on a lofted trajectory, where the missile flies very high to cover a relatively short horizontal distance. David Wright, an expert with the Union of Concerned scientists said that if it had been fired on a standard trajectory, the ICBM would have been capable of traveling 13,000 kilometers, or 8,100 miles.
"Such a missile would have more than enough range to reach Washington, DC, and in fact any part of the continental United States," Wright said in a statement, though he noted that range probably wouldn't be possible if the missile were fitted with a heavy nuclear warhead.
In a statement, North Korea said the missile was topped with a "super-large heavy warhead."
Michael Elleman, a ballistic missile analyst with 38 North, noted that while the launch demonstrated North Korea had "taken another minor step forward," more tests would be needed to "establish the missile's performance and reliability."