Kim Jong-Un boasted of North Korea’s ability to strike any target in the US after a second ICBM test that weapons experts said today could even bring New York into range — in a potent challenge to President Donald Trump. Under Kim’s leadership North Korea has accelerated its drive towards a credible nuclear strike capability, in defiance of international condemnation and multiple sets of UN sanctions.
Kim said the test “is meant to send a grave warning to the US” and demonstrated the North’s ability to launch “at any place and time,” the official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said. The “leader said proudly the test also confirmed all the US mainland is within our striking range,” it said.
Weapons experts said the altitude and flight time of Friday’s missile suggested it was significantly more powerful than the July 4 test, with a theoretical range of around 10,000 kilometres meaning it might be able to reach east coast US cities like New York, depending on the payload size.
“North Korea seems to have made a logical step forward, as it tries to perfect the technologies to build and field an operationally-viable ICBM that can threaten the mainland United States,” said Michael Elleman, missile defence specialist at the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies.
Kim Dong-Yub, a defence analyst at the Institute for Far Eastern Studies at Kyungnam University, said the North may have succeeded in miniaturising warheads down to 750 kilograms. “If the missile carries a 750 kg payload, its range could be 10,000 kilometres. Taking into account the Earth’s rotation, it means it could reach not only the western cities but New York and Washington as well,” he told AFP.
Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida said he held telephone talks with Tillerson and agreed on the need to put “the heaviest possible pressure” on North Korea. “We confirmed that we will closely cooperate in adopting a fresh UNSC (UN Security Council) resolution, including severe measures, and working on China and Russia,” Kishida told reporters.
The heads of the US and South Korean militaries also discussed “military response options” after North Korea’s launch, the Pentagon said. South Korea said the test had prompted it to speed up deployment of a US missile defence system, despite consistent protests from China that the programme would destabilise the region.
North Korea’s unrelenting pursuit of its missile and nuclear programmes poses a thorny policy challenge for Trump, who is at loggerheads with Beijing over how to handle Kim’s regime. The North’s July 4 test triggered global alarm, with experts saying the missile had a theoretical range to reach Alaska.
There remain doubts whether the North can miniaturise a nuclear weapon to fit a missile nose cone, or if it has mastered the technology needed for the projectile to survive re-entry into the Earth’s atmosphere.