North Korea is trumpeting through state media today its ability to reach anywhere in the mainland United States with its increasingly sophisticated missiles. The announcement follows its third test of an intercontinental ballistic missile early this morning local time (Nov. 29).
The news was delivered on national television and through the state newswire KCNA. The statement from KCNA described the missile as being a newly developed Hwasong-15, saying it featured significant improvements over the Hwasong-14 used earlier this year. It said the rocket was tipped with a “super-large heavy warhead” and “capable of striking the whole mainland of the US.”
David Wright, co-director of the US-based Union of Concerned Scientists, wrote in a blog post that the missile “would have more than enough range to reach Washington, D.C., and in fact any part of the continental United States” were it flown on a standard trajectory, rather than the lofted trajectory that sent the missile into the Sea of Japan.
Observers have questioned the nation’s ability to effectively marry nuclear warheads to its missiles or target specific locations, and whether its missiles can survive re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere. Despite today’s statement from Pyongyang, those are still open questions.
Interestingly, the statement suggested that North Korea has not just made improvements, but actually reached its goal. It called the launch a “priceless victory” and said it “meets the goal of the completion of the rocket weaponry system development set by the DPRK.” It added that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un “declared with pride that now we have finally realized the great historic cause of completing the state nuclear force, the cause of building a rocket power.”
Pyongyang has long said its goal is the ability to reach all of the US with nuclear-tipped ICBMs.
North Korea then described itself as a “responsible nuclear power and a peace-loving state” pursuing the “noble purpose of defending peace and stability of the world.”