North Korea’s latest missile launch appears to put U.S. capital in range

The Washington Post reports: North Korea launched what appears to be another intercontinental ballistic missile, the Pentagon said Tuesday, with experts calculating that the U.S. capital is now technically within Kim Jong Un’s reach.

The launch, the first in more than two months, is a sign that the North Korean leader is pressing ahead with his nation’s stated goal of being able to strike the United States’ mainland and is not caving in to the Trump administration’s warnings. The missile logged a longer flight time than any of its predecessors.

“We will take care of it,” President Trump told reporters at the White House after the launch. He called it a “situation we will handle.”

Trump has repeatedly said that military options are on the table for dealing with North Korea, suggesting that time has run out for a diplomatic solution to the nuclear problem.

A growing chorus of voices in Washington is calling for serious consideration of military action against North Korea, although this is strongly opposed by South Korea, where the Seoul metropolitan region — home to 25 million people — is within the range of North Korean artillery.

And Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Tuesday that “diplomatic options remain viable and open, for now.” He added: “The United States remains committed to finding a peaceful path to denuclearization and to ending belligerent actions by North Korea.”

The missile, which launched early Wednesday local time, traveled some 620 miles and reached a height of about 2,800 miles before landing off the coast of Japan and flew for a total of 54 minutes. This suggested that it had been fired almost straight up — on a lofted trajectory similar to North Korea’s two previous intercontinental ballistic missile tests.

The Pentagon said that the projectile did indeed appear to be an intercontinental ballistic missile, or ICBM. The latest missile “went higher, frankly, than any previous shot they’ve taken,” Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said. He described the launch as part of an effort to build missiles “that can threaten everywhere in the world.”

If it had flown on a standard trajectory designed to maximize its reach, this missile would have a range of more than 8,100 miles, said David Wright, co-director of the global security program at the Union of Concerned Scientists. [Continue reading…]

David Wright adds: We do not know how heavy a payload this missile carried, but given the increase in range it seems likely that it carried a very light mock warhead. If true, that means it would be incapable of carrying a nuclear warhead to this long distance, since such a warhead would be much heavier. [Continue reading…]

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