North Korea claimed to have successfully tested its first intercontinental ballistic missile in a launch Tuesday, though U.S. and South Korean officials earlier said it had an intermediate range.
A test-launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile, if confirmed, would be a game-changing development in the North’s push to militarily challenge Washington and a step forward in developing a nuclear-tipped missile that can reach anywhere in the U.S.
North Korea hailed the missile test in a national broadcast. Pyongyang’s state media said it was ordered and supervised by Dictator Kim Jong Un, according to Reuters.
“The test launch was conducted at the sharpest angle possible and did not have any negative effect on neighboring countries,” North Korean state media said, adding it had a flight time of 39 minutes and reached an altitude of 1,741 miles.
Officials from the U.S., Japan and South Korea said the missile landed in Japan’s Exclusive Economic Zone and the launch covered a distance of about 580 miles.
The new missile test comes more than a week after North Korea conducted a new rocket engine test, possibly for an ICBM.
Soon after the launch, President Trump responded with a flurry of angry tweets.
“North Korea has just launched another missile,” Trump wrote on his Twitter account. “Does this guy have anything better to do with his life? Hard to believe that South Korea and Japan will put up with this much longer. Perhaps China will put a heavy move on North Korea and end this nonsense once and for all!”
Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga suggested the altitude of this missile might have been higher than earlier tests. He did not give further details, including the distance of the flight and where in Japan’s exclusive economic zone in the Sea of Japan the missile landed.
Just last week South Korean President Moon Jae-in and Trump met for the first time and vowed to oppose North Korea’s development of atomic weapons.
Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe sharply criticized North Korea for the launch. “The latest launch clearly showed that the threat is growing,” Abe said.
North Korea has a reliable arsenal of shorter-range missiles, but is still trying to perfect its longer-range missiles. Some analysts believe North Korea has the technology to arm its short-range missiles with nuclear warheads, but it’s unclear if it has mastered the technology needed to build an atomic bomb that can fit on a long-range missile.
The launch seems designed to send a political warning to Washington and its chief Asian allies, Seoul and Tokyo, even as it allows North Korean scientists a chance to perfect their still-incomplete nuclear missile program. It came on the eve of the U.S. Independence Day holiday and ahead of the G-20 summit.