North Korean Missiles Move Closer to Hitting the United States

SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea said on Tuesday that it had successfully conducted its first test of an intercontinental ballistic missile, claiming a milestone in its efforts to build nuclear weapons capable of hitting the mainland United States.

The announcement came hours after a launch that the United States military said had sent the missile aloft for 37 minutes. That duration, analysts said, suggested a significant improvement in the range of the North’s missiles, and it might allow one to travel as far as 4,000 miles and hit Alaska.

In an initial statement, the United States Pacific Command described the weapon as an intermediate-range missile rather than an intercontinental ballistic missile. But South Korean and Japanese officials said they were studying the data to determine if it was an ICBM.

The missile departed the Banghyon airfield in the northwestern town of Kusong and flew 578 miles before landing in the sea between North Korea and Japan, the South Korean military said in a statement.

The Japanese government said the missile landed in its so-called exclusive economic zone off its western coast. Under a series of United Nations Security Council resolutions, North Korea is prohibited from developing or testing ballistic missiles.

While the North has made significant progress in its weapons programs, experts believe it cannot make nuclear warheads small enough to be mounted on ICBMs. Still, American policy makers have long seen just the development of an ICBM as a critical threshold the North should not be allowed to cross.

The missile test adds a volatile new element to the Trump administration’s efforts to curb North Korea’s nuclear ambitions, which have included naval drills off the Korean Peninsula and pressure on China, Pyongyang’s longtime ally. In a blunt phone call on Sunday, President Trump warned President Xi Jinping of China that the United States was prepared to act alone against North Korea.

originally posted on New York Times






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