Analysts who examined video of North Korea’s intercontinental ballistic missile test launch on Friday concluded that the missile poses less of a threat than originally thought, according to the New York Times.
Although the missile appeared capable of reaching the West Coast of the United States in terms of distance traveled, footage of the Hwasong-14 re-entry vehicle indicated that it broke apart during re-entry into the Earth’s atmosphere before crashing into the sea off the coast of Japan.
An analyst at 38 North, a website run by The US-Korea Institute at the John Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, concluded that this news represents a major setback in North Korea’s ramped-up attempts to build weaponry capable of reaching the continental United States.
“If this assessment accurately reflects reality,” said Michael Elleman, the missile expert who weighed in his thoughts about the hostile dictatorship’s weapons capability. “North Korea’s engineers have yet to master re-entry technologies and more work remains before Kim Jong Un has an ICBM capable of striking the American mainland.”
Intercontinental ballistic missiles are guided rockets primarily designed to carry nuclear warheads with travel arcs high enough to reach outer space. What makes them such a threat to national security is their ability to strike targets thousands of miles away from their launch site.
Last Friday, North Korea launched its second test flight of an ICBM in 24 days. It flew for approximately 47 minutes and traveled roughly 2,300 miles into space. If its steep trajectory was flattened out, the missile could have possibly reach the United States.
North Korea’s official news agency reported that Kim Jong Un meant the test to be a “stern warning” to the U.S. The North Korean leader went on to emphasize the North’s capability of a “surprise launching of an intercontinental ballistic missile at any time and from anywhere and that all of the mainland United States is within range of our missiles.”
According to Elleman, North Korea will need at least two or three more ICBM test flights to ensure the missile has a reliable re-entry system, probably in the next year. This estimate coincided with the Defense Intelligence Agency predicting that North Korea will have all the technologies to make this a reality by 2018.
So far, the United States has done little to respond to North Korea’s recent test flights.
“We’ll handle North Korea,” President Donald Trump after being asked about the launch on the way to a cabinet meeting. “We’re going to be able to handle them. It will be handled. We handle everything.”
The Trump administration conducted a mostly symbolic flight of B-1B bombers over the Korean Peninsula and has started negotiating with South Korea to permit the country to develop longer-range missiles that could strike anywhere in North Korea. The U.S. Air Force conducted an ICBM test launch of its own from California this morning, according to CBS News.
In an official statement, Trump said, “The United States will take all necessary steps to ensure the security of the American homeland and protect our allies in the region.”