U.S. Forces Korea has said for the first time that North Korea’s powerful Hwasong-15 intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) can hit targets anywhere in the mainland United States, with an estimated range of nearly 13,000 km (8,000 miles).
USFK made its first official assessment of the long-range missile in the “2019 Strategic Digest,” an annual report published by the USFK and the United Nations Command and Combined Forces Command.
After the first and only launch of the Hwasong-15, the North claimed that the missile can carry a “super-large heavy warhead which is capable of striking the whole mainland of the U.S.”
The missile flew for 53 minutes, reaching an altitude of around 4,500 km before descending and landing within Japan’s exclusive economic zone, traveling a distance of 960 km from its launch point.
Based on the energy required for such a high loft, David Wright, an analyst with the Union of Concerned Scientists estimated shortly after the launch that it could have traveled 13,000 km if flown on a range maximizing trajectory, putting the entire continental United States within range. However, he said, it remains unclear, if the Hwasong-15 was outfitted with a realistically weighted payload.
The digest also highlighted the conspicuous absence of a summit between the North and Japan, but said that “an additional meeting with Tokyo is envisioned for some point in the future.”
In recent weeks, North Korean state-run media, however, has portrayed the possibility of a meeting between Kim and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe — one of the biggest proponents of the “maximum pressure” policy of tough sanctions on Pyongyang — as increasingly remote.
In a commentary Wednesday, the Rodong Sinmun, the official newspaper of the North’s ruling party, branded Abe’s policy as a “ludicrous one of a political dwarf who has no ability to properly grasp the (reality).”