July 05, 2017 09:35
North Korea on Tuesday claimed it succeeded in test-firing an intercontinental ballistic missile called Hwasong-14, capable of striking Alaska and Hawaii.
North Korean state TV said the country is now "a full-fledged nuclear power... possessed of the most powerful intercontinental-ballistic rocket capable of hitting any part of the world."
It said the rocket blasted off from the northwest at 9 a.m. to make a 39 minute flight along a preset trajectory before accurately hitting target waters in the open sea. The rocket flew 933 km, reaching an altitude of 2,802 km, it added.
Leader Kim Jong-un watched the test launch at the scene.
Missile experts in South Korea and overseas believe the missile could travel 6,500 to 7,000 km if it is launched at a 30 to 40-degree angle, which is not enough to reach the U.S. mainland but could reach Alaska (6,000 km) and Hawaii (7,000 km).
Some two months ago, the North tested an medium-range ballistic missile capable of hitting targets 5,000 km away. A government source here said, "North Korea probably shortened the range so that the missile would not pass over Japan. We are focusing on whether North Korea succeeded in acquiring the technology to allow missiles to re-enter the atmosphere with the latest test launch."
In order for an ICBM to function properly, it needs to be able to withstand temperatures of 7,000 to 8,000 degrees Celsius on re-entry at a speed of Mach 24 or 25.
The U.S. confirmed North Korea's claim but warned Pyongyang that it would use "the full range of capabilities" against the growing threat. The launch was timed to take place on U.S. Independence Day.
Some experts believe North Korea's rapid missile development could enable the isolated state to succeed in developing an ICBM by the end of this year that is capable of hitting the U.S. mainland.
President Moon Jae-in called an emergency meeting of the National Security Council right after the test and urged Pyongyang not to pass "the point of no return."
U.S. President Donald Trump was scathing on Twitter. "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," he tweeted.
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