Two U.S. officials told Reuters this week that North Korea's latest test of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) may be able to reach most of the continental United States.
This assessment comes after two tests showed Pyongyang’s ICBM capable of traveling long distances. This ups-the-ante in the standoff between North Korea and the United States. U.S. President Donald Trump has promised to “handle” the situation without providing anything concrete in terms of his strategy to do so.
The missile U.S. officials are referring to is known as the Hwasong-14. According to Missile Threat at the Center for Strategic and International Studies; it can fly more than 6,214 miles, which puts the United States in range.
The weapon first appeared on July 4, 2017, when North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un conducted the first successful Hwasong-14 test. It lifted-off from Pyongyang and traveled 578 miles in approximately 39 minutes before landing in the Sea of Japan. Here’s a North Korean state-TV report on the launch.
A July 28 test of the same weapon exceeded the length and distance of the first test. Last week, the Hwasong-14 flew 621 miles in about 45 minutes. According to Missile Threat, both tests show that the missile, if it reaches its maximum travel potential, could reach the United States. Here’s a video of that launch.
However, a flaw was discovered in the second test: The mock warhead on the missile shattered into pieces during its fiery re-entry to earth, meaning that, in its current form, the ICBM could not successfully deliver a nuclear weapon to the United States. During a press conference Monday, Michael Elleman, a missile expert at the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London, said this could change quickly.
“It could be done in three months,” he said. “It may take six months. If they continue to fail, however, it could take a longer period of time. We just don’t know.”