This latest missile launch marks a milestone in Pyongyang’s missile program, which has been accelerated under leader Kim Jong-Un.
It also indicates how far the program has progressed and is calculated to send a strong message to the United States in particular.
CGTN’s Jim Spellman reports on the progression of the DPRK missile program.
The DPRK’s Hwasong-15 missile flew more than 4,000 kilometers high and about 1,000 kilometers to the east, staying in the air for 53 minutes before coming down in the waters off the coast of Japan.
Analysts believe if the missile was fired at a lower angle, its range would cover most of Asia, Europe and North America. DPRK state television called it “the greatest ICBM ever to have reached the completion stage.”
Experts say the Hwasong-15 could potentially hit anywhere in the U.S., including Washington, D.C.
“I don’t think that the intent is to antagonize anything. I think they have an absolute terror of a U.S. attack,” Danny Davis, a former U.S. Army officer and an analyst at DefensePriorities.org said. “And so I think that they feel like they have to accelerate their testing as fast as possible, so that they have a weapons system that they feel will deter us, so that we won’t take any preemptive action.”
The DPRK has been developing missiles for more than three decades. In 1984, it started by testing a variant of the Soviet Scud missile, with a range of about 300 kilometers.
It later built the Rodong-1 with four times the range. In 1998, its Taepodong-1 missile flew over Japan, landing in the Pacific Ocean.
In December 2012, the DPRK successfully fired its long-range Unha-3 rocket, putting its first satellite in orbit. South Korean officials claimed it could fly more than 10,000 kilometers. Since then, the pace of testing has picked up quickly.
Analysts aren’t sure if the DPRK has a nuclear warhead small enough to fit in an intercontinental ballistic missile, or ICBM, and it’s not clear how accurate these missiles are. But, the US must assume the DPRK is a nuclear state capable of striking the US at any time.
“We cannot start war; we cannot use preventive war to think we’re going to take out the regime, because it won’t,” said Davis. “Millions of lives could be at stake here both in South Korea, US personnel and possibly even in the mainland if we prompted them into using an ICBM to the US. So we have to not inflame the situation, because we have to prevent war. The costs are too high.” Any misstep could lead to all-out war