U. S. officials said North Korea announced Tuesday it had successfully tested and launched intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) for the first time, which Pyongyang claimed could “reach anywhere in the world.”
Launching what is described as a two stage missile on Tuesday, U.S. intelligence classified the missile—as not seen before.
The first stage of the missile identified as a KN-17 liquid fueled missile, is well-known to US intelligence and has been previously launched by North Korea.
Prior to of Tuesday’s missile test, U.S. intelligence had evidence that the KN-17 missile was in the process of being launched. The U.S. military officials notes that at some point prior to launch, the North Koreans attached a second stage atop that missile.
In a statement, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the U.S. strongly condemns the missile and called on “global action.” Tillerson said President Trump and the national security team are assessing the situation in close coordination with our allies and partners.”
A photograph released by North Korea’s official news agency on Tuesday that is said to show the intercontinental ballistic missile being launched. Credit Korean Central News Agency
The U.S. military officials do not deny outside experts—who said if the missile had been fired on a normal trajectory, that was intended to take advantage of the range these rockets could reach, it possible the missile could have gone in excess of 4,000 miles—enough to reach Alaska, although not the lower 48 United States, and not Hawaii.
North Korea previously claimed it successfully test-launched the missile, a potential game-changing development in what may be the world’s most dangerous nuclear standoff and, if true, a direct rebuke to Mr. Trump’s earlier declaration that such a test “won’t happen!”
The capability of the second stage presents concern for U.S. intelligence, specifically when focusing on how it technically contributed to making Pyongyang’s latest test its first ever intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) launch.
The second stage, according to CNN reports had a separate 30-second burn cycle that could allow the missile to travel the extra distance to classify it as an ICBM.
The KN-17 imagery led the U.S, intelligence to initially view it was a shorter-range missile.
North Korean state media said the missile reached an altitude of more than 2,800 kilometers (1,741 miles), before it splashed down in the sea off the Korean Peninsula 930 kilometers (578 miles) from the launch site.
The US and South Korea announced they had conducted a joint exercise in response to the launch, a demonstration that South Korea said was “intended as a strong warning against North Korean provocation.”
David Wright of the Union of Concerned Scientists estimates North Korea is still a couple years away from a missile that reaches U.S. soil—but added there is no denying the significance of this test.
“I would say a bigger threat than anything North Korea has launched before in part because it can reach Alaska, but in part because it does show that the Koreans are moving forward at a surprisingly rapid pace,” Wright told CBS News.