North Korea said it had successfully tested a a powerful new intercontinental ballistic missile and put the entire US mainland within range of its nuclear arsenal.
North Korea, which conducted its sixth and largest nuclear test in September, has now fired dozens of ballistic missiles tests under its leader, Kim Jong Un, in defiance of international regulations.
Last night’s test was the highest and longest any North Korean missile has previously flown.
‘After watching the successful launch of the new type ICBM Hwasong-15, Kim Jong Un declared with pride that now we have finally realized the great historic cause of completing the state nuclear force, the cause of building a rocket power,’ according to a statement read by a television presenter.
North Korea described itself as a ‘responsible nuclear power’, claiming its strategic weapons were developed to defend itself from ‘the U.S. imperialists’ nuclear blackmail policy and nuclear threat’.
Here's everything we know about the latest ICBM launch:
The new Hwasong-15, named after the planet Mars, was a more advanced version of an ICBM tested twice in July, North Korea said. It was designed to carry a ‘super-large heavy warhead’ and had much greater advantages in its tactical and technological specifications than its predecessor.
North Korea said the new missile reached an altitude of around 4,475 km (2,780 miles) – more than 10 times the height of the International Space Station – and flew 950 km (590 miles) during its 53 minute flight.
Based on its trajectory and distance, the missile would have a range of more than 13,000 km (8,100 miles) – more than enough to reach Washington D.C. and the rest of the United States, the U.S.-based Union of Concerned Scientists said.
However, it was unclear how heavy a payload the missile was carrying, and it was uncertain if it could carry a large nuclear warhead that far, the nonprofit science advocacy group added.
North Korea has said its weapons programs are a necessary defense against U.S. plans to invade. The United States, which has 28,500 troops in South Korea as a legacy of the 1950-53 Korean war, denies any such intention.
Many nuclear experts say the North has yet to prove it has mastered all technical hurdles, including the ability deliver a heavy nuclear warhead reliably atop an ICBM, but it was likely that it soon would.
‘We don’t have to like it, but we’re going to have to learn to live with North Korea’s ability to target the United States with nuclear weapons,’ warned Jeffrey Lewis, head of the East Asia Nonproliferation Program at the Middlebury Institute of Strategic Studies.
Donald Trump reacted to the launch by saying: ‘We will take care of it.’ He added: ‘It is a situation that we will handle.’
Pentagon spokesman Col. Rob Manning said the information is based on an initial assessment of the launch and a detailed investigation has been launched.
The test did not pose a threat to the United States, its territories or allies, the Pentagon claimed.
Minutes after the North fired the missile, South Korea’s military said it conducted a missile-firing test in response.
The test comes less than three months before South Korea hosts the Winter Olympics at a resort just 80 km (50 miles) from the heavily fortified border with the North.