South Korean officials say analysis of debris from the latest North Korean rocket shows it has the ability to reach the US mainland.
At a news conference in Seoul on Sunday, Defense Ministry officials made the announcement after their experts looked at parts of the rocket that fell in the sea after Pyongyang’s successful launch on Dec. 12.
They have only recovered part of the first stage of the rocket from the Yellow Sea off South Korea’s West Coast.
But that has shown them, they believe, that North Korea now has the ability to fire it.
Their estimate comes from analyzing an oxidizer container, which stored red fuming nitric acid to fuel the first-stage propellant.
“Based on our analysis and simulation, the missile is capable of flying more than 10,000 kilometers (6,200 miles) with a warhead of 500-600 kilograms,” a defense ministry official told reporters.
South Korean missile experts believe the use red fuming nitric acid shows it was an intercontinental missile test.
“Red fuming nitric acid was used in missiles developed by the Soviet Union,” said a member of the South Korean Defense Ministry team.
“Because it used red fuming nitric acid as an oxidizer, which can be stored for a long time at normal temperature, the team concluded that (the rocket) was intended for testing (the North’s) ICBM technology, rather than developing a space launch vehicle.“