North Korea warned Saturday that it was “not too far away” from testing a long-range missile capable of hitting the continental U.S. amid an unprecedented pace of weapons tests by the nuclear-armed nation.
“The series of recent strategic weapons tests show that we are not too far away from test-firing an intercontinental ballistic missile,” the state-run Rodong Sinmun said in an editorial.
Pyongyang has unleashed a string of missile launches and tests of other advanced weaponry in recent weeks as it seeks to highlight its progress toward mastering the technology needed to mount a nuclear warhead on an intercontinental ballistic missile.
In a New Year’s Day address, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un claimed that the North was in the “final stages” of developing an ICBM.
U.S. President Donald Trump has vowed that a launch of a long-range missile by Pyongyang “won’t happen” on his watch.
The editorial said: “The great success of test-firing an intercontinental ballistic missile, which we are sure to achieve, will mark a historic watershed moment in the failure of the U.S. hostile policy against us. Historically speaking, the U.S. has never dared to go to war with a country that possesses nuclear weapons or ICBMs.”
The editorial also claimed the reclusive nation had succeeded in developing the technology needed to ensure a nuclear warhead’s stable re-entry into the atmosphere.
Pyongyang has tested several advanced weapons systems this year, including of its solid-fueled, medium-range Pukguksong-2, which is capable of striking most of Japan.
But perhaps its biggest breakthrough was its test last month of a new intermediate-range ballistic missile that was aimed at verifying the weapon’s ability to carry “a large-size heavy nuclear warhead.”
The North hailed that test as a success, with experts saying the missile, known as the Hwasong-12, would have flown about 4,500 km (2,800 miles) if launched on a standard trajectory, putting U.S. military sites not only in Japan, but also on Guam — 3,400 km from North Korea — within striking distance.
Shortly after that Hwasong-12 test, aerospace engineer John Schilling wrote on the influential 38 North blog that while the new missile’s “performance doesn’t quite reach ICBM standards it clearly shares a common heritage with the KN-08 ICBM,” a road-mobile intercontinental ballistic missile that is believed to be under development by the North.
That missile “might be a test bed, demonstrating technologies and systems to be used in future ICBMs,” he wrote on the blog, run by the U.S.-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies.
U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency Director Lt. Gen. Vincent Stewart told a Senate hearing last month that North Korea, if left unchecked, is on an “inevitable” path to obtaining a nuclear-armed missile capable of striking the U.S.
Schilling has estimated that it would take until at least 2020 for the North to be able to develop an ICBM capable of reaching the U.S. mainland.
In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.