North Korean officials claimed to have successfully tested its first intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) in a launch Tuesday, marking what the regime called the “final step” in creating a “powerful nuclear state that can strike anywhere on Earth.”
It will prove be rather difficult to confirm many of the details of the Hwasgon-14 launch, but if it is determined to be an ICBM test then it could be a potential game-changing development in what may be the world’s most dangerous nuclear standoff and a direct rebuke to President Trump.
U.S., South Korean and Japanese officials earlier said that North Korea fired an intermediate-range missile into waters off the coast of Japan – known as Japan’s Exclusive Economic Zone. Intermediate-range ballistic missiles can travel nearly 3,500 miles, meaning U.S. forces on the island of Guam would be in their range.
“We are working with our interagency partners on a more detailed assessment,” U.S. Pacific Command said in a statement. “We continue to monitor North Korea’s actions closely.”
The launch appeared to be North Korea’s most successful missile test yet. State media said it was ordered and supervised by dictator Kim Jong Un, according to Reuters.
U.S., South Korean and Japanese officials said it flew for about 40 minutes and reached an altitude of 1,500 miles, which would be longer and higher than any similar North Korean test. It would break the previous record set on May 14 – that test was 30 minutes. A U.S. scientist examining the height and distance told The Associated Press the missile could be potentially powerful enough to reach Alaska.
President Donald Trump immediately responded to the launch in a flurry of tweets.
“North Korea has just launched another missile,” Trump wrote 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. Perhaps China will put a heavy move on North Korea and end this nonsense once and for all!”
The launch sends a political warning to Washington and its chief Asian allies, Seoul and Tokyo, while also allowing North Korean scientists a chance to perfect their still-incomplete nuclear missile program. It came on the eve of the July 4 holiday, days after the first face-to-face meeting of the leaders of South Korea and the United States, and ahead of the G-20 summit set to take place in Germany.
The missile test could invite a new round of international sanctions, but North Korea is already one of the most sanctioned countries on Earth. U.N. Security Council resolutions ban it from engaging in any ballistic activities. Since late 2012, North Korea has placed two satellites into orbit with long-range rockets, each time triggering new U.N. sanctions and worldwide condemnation.
Last year, North Korea conducted its fourth and fifth atomic bomb tests and claimed a series of technical breakthroughs in its efforts to develop long-range nuclear missiles. The fifth nuclear test in September was the North’s most powerful atomic detonation to date.
In their meeting last week, South Korean President Moon Jae-in and Trump vowed to oppose North Korea’s development of atomic weapons.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe sharply criticized North Korea for the launch. “The latest launch clearly showed that the threat is growing,” Abe said.
Abe, who talked by phone with Trump on Monday, said the two leaders plan to seek cooperation from world leaders when they attend a G-20 summit in Germany.
Fox News’ Lucas Tomlinson and The Associated Press contributed to this report.