Written by: Daniel Jennings
North Korea Sunday made significant progress in its effort to develop an Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) capable of hitting the United States, successfully testing a missile that potentially could hit a U.S. territory.
“It appears to have not only demonstrated an intermediate-range ballistic missile (IRBM) that might enable them to reliably strike the U.S. base at Guam, but more importantly, may represent a substantial advance to developing an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM),” the monitoring organization 38 North said.
38 North was referring to the Hwsong-12 missile, which flew for 489 miles and reached an altitude of 1,312 miles before crashing about 60 miles off Russian territory.
Experts say the missile flew higher and longer than any North Korean missile to date. The reclusive country, for its part, said the missile was “capable of carrying a large, heavy nuclear warhead,” according to the nation’s official news service.
“The U.S. should not … disregard or misjudge the reality that its mainland and Pacific operation region are in (North Korea’s) sighting range for strike,” said North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
One frightening feature of the launch was the successful test of a homing feature that would allow the warhead to survive the worst reentry situation, the country’s official news agency reported.
Such a homing feature would enable the North to aim the missile at specific targets, such as American cities or military bases.
“This is an advanced missile, if their claims are true,” Joshua Pollack of Nonproliferation Review told Reuters. He noted that the missile fired on Sunday looked similar to mockups of an ICBM the North Koreans may be building.
North Korea claims to have successfully tested five nuclear bombs and is believed to have around 10 nukes in its arsenal.
Russian President Vladimir Putin called the launch “dangerous” but warned the world – presumable meaning the U.S. – against “intimidating” the country.
“I would like to confirm that we are categorically against the expansion of the club of nuclear states, including through the Korean Peninsula,” Putin said We are against it and consider it counterproductive, damaging, dangerous.”
Still, Putin supported a “peaceful” solution.