NORTH KOREAN FIRST Rogue nation successfully test-launched ICBM, "Can Reach Alaska"
There was something different - and symbolic - about last night's North Korean ballistic missile launch which not coincidentally took place on US Independence Day, because shortly after the event, North Korea announced it would have an important announcement to make. This time it did not disappoint, when the country declared that it had successfully tested its first intermediate-range intercontinental ballistic missile which flew for a record time/altitude for the rogue state, and is seen as a "watershed moment" in its push to develop a nuclear weapon capable of hitting the mainland United States.
North Korea, it said, was now "a full-fledged nuclear power that has been possessed of the most powerful inter-continental ballistic rocket capable of hitting any part of the world". The ICBMwould enable the country to "put an end to the US nuclear war threat and blackmail" and defend the Korean peninsula, it added.
In a statement the North's Academy of Defence Science, which developed the missile, said it reached an altitude of 2,802 kilometres and flew 933 kilometres, calling it the "final gate to rounding off the state nuclear force".
There are still doubts whether the North can miniaturise a nuclear weapon sufficiently to fit it onto a missile nose cone, or if it has mastered the technology needed for it to survive the difficult re-entry into the Earth's atmosphere.
As Citi said, "the move is highly provocative and it is difficult to imagine that the date chosen was in any way coincidental (NK did the same in 2006 and 2009)... the enormity of this latest crisis is, as yet, difficult to gauge."
Speaking to AFP, US experts said the device could reach Alaska, while the July 4 launch triggered a late evening Twitter outburst from President Trump who urged China to act to "end this nonsense once and for all" and asked on Twitter: "does this guy have anything better to do with his life?"
David Wright, a physicist with the US-based Union of Concerned Scientists, told the BBC that if the reports are correct, this missile could "reach a maximum range of roughly 6,700km on a standard trajectory". That range would allow it to reach Alaska, but not the large islands of Hawaii or the other 48 US states, he says. It is not just a missile that North Korea would need, our correspondent adds. It must also have the ability to protect a warhead as it re-enters the atmosphere, and it is not clear if North Korea can do that.
More importantly, the North's possession of a working ICBM, something that Trump has vowed "won't happen", will likely force a fundamental recalculation of the strategic threat posed by the isolated, impoverished state, and prompted an early selloff in South Korean assets. It will likely require more than just a verbal response from the White House.