North Korea test-fires ICBM with range to strike entire US, experts say

The United States, South Korea, and Japan all condemned North Korea on Friday after the rogue state conducted its latest intercontinental ballistic missile test capable of striking the American mainland.

The missile is estimated to have traveled between 3,600 and 3,790 miles and reached a height of approximately 620 miles before crashing west of Japan’s Hokkaido island.

North Korea test-fires ICBM with range to strike entire US, experts say

Around 10:15 a.m. local time, South Korean officials detected the ICBM launch.

According to National Security Council Spokesperson Adrienne Watson, the US will take “all necessary measures” to secure its territory as well as that of its South Korean and Japanese allies.

“This launch is a brazen violation of multiple [United Nations] Security Council resolutions and needlessly raises tensions and risks destabilizing the security situation in the region,” Watson said. “This action demonstrates that [North Korea] continues to prioritize its unlawful weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missile programs over the well-being of its people.

We urge all countries to condemn these violations and call on [North Korea] to come to the table for serious negotiations.

“The door has not closed on diplomacy, but Pyongyang must immediately cease its destabilizing actions and instead choose diplomatic engagement,” she added.

In Bangkok, Vice President Kamala Harris called on North Korea to halt what she called “unlawful, destabilizing acts.”

North Korea test-fires ICBM with range to strike entire US, experts say
The Hwasong-17 intercontinental ballistic missile during a test launch in March 2022.

“On behalf of the United States, I reaffirm our ironclad commitment to our Indo-Pacific alliances,” she said at a meeting with with leaders from Australia, Canada, and New Zealand. “Together the countries represented here will continue to urge North Korea to commit to serious and sustained diplomacy.”

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Also in Bangkok, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida called the launch “utterly unacceptable,” noting the missile fell inside Japan’s exclusive economic zone west of Hokkaido.

South Korean Prime Minister Han Duck-soo urged the international community to unite in order to persuade North Korea to stop its provocations, which he said only pushed the totalitarian country deeper into isolation and economic struggle.

South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff later announced that the military had conducted F-35 jet drills simulating an aerial strike on North Korean missile launchers to “demonstrate our firm resolve to deal sternly with an ICBM launch and any other provocations and threats posed by North Korea, as well as the allies’ overwhelming capacity and readiness to launch precision strikes on the enemy.”

According to Japanese Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada, the ICBM had a potential range of 9,320 miles– “in which case it could cover the entire mainland Untied States.”

Although it is unclear whether North Korea possesses a functioning nuclear arsenal, Kwon Yong Soo, a former professor at Korea National Defense University, said he believes the nation tested the Hwasong-17 missile, which can carry up to five nuclear warheads.

ICBM 2 scaled
A news program reporting on North Korea’s missile launch on Friday

North Korea previously tested the Hwasong-14 and Hwasong-15 in 2017, which demonstrated potential to reach only parts of the U.S. mainland. Kwon explained that the Hwasong-17’s longer range is essential if North Korea wants to bypass American missile defense systems.

Chang Young-keun, a missile expert at Korea Aerospace University, added that North Korea still needed to demonstrate that its long-range warheads could withstand the demands of atmospheric reentry. Chang stated that the launch details on Friday indicated that it was the same missile that was tested in March, when North Korea claimed to have launched the Hwasong-17 missile while South Korea claimed it was the Hwasong-15.

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The ICBM test on Friday came just one day after South Korea announced that North Korea had launched a short-range ballistic missile into its eastern waters. The recent barrage of tests coincides with China and Russia’s ongoing opposition to US efforts to strengthen UN sanctions aimed at North Korea’s arsenal.

Earlier this week, North Korean Foreign Minister Choe Son Hui also threatened a “fiercer” response to US efforts to bolster security commitments in South Korea and Japan.

“The keener the US is on the ‘bolstered offer of extended deterrence’ to its allies and the more they intensify provocative and bluffing military activities on the Korean Peninsula and in the region, the fiercer (North Korea’s) military counteraction will be, in direct proportion to it,” Choe said.  “It will pose a more serious, realistic and inevitable threat to the US and its vassal forces.”

Although Choe did not specify the nature of North Korea’s response, he did say “the US will be well aware that it is gambling, for which it will certainly regret.”