July was an active month for North Korea in terms of nuclear weaponry, following a second intercontinental ballistic missile launch on Friday July 28th.
According to Japanese and South Korean officials, the missiles apparently landed in the sea near Japan. South Korea and the United States have confirmed the launch.
There is yet to be confirmation from North Korea and the story is still developing.
Earlier this month, North Korea claimed to successfully test an ICBM for the first time. The range of the ICBM has been debated, but some believe it has the potential to reach Alaska.
This is the 14th test carried out by North Korea in 2017.
The missile was launched at 15:41 GMT, around midnight in North Korea, from the Jagang province at the north end of the country, according to South Korean News agency Yonhap.
Officials say the missile flew for roughly 45 minutes, 5 minutes longer than the ICBM tested earlier on July 4. It landed in the sea in Japan’s exclusive economic zone, not in its territorial waters. There was no damage to any vessel or aircraft.
According to analytics by the U.S., South Korea, and Japan, the missile was launched from Mupyong-ni, near the Chinese border, and flew 2,300 miles high and 621 miles in distance. If the trajectory was more direct, cities such as Los Angeles, Denver, and Chicago would have been in range.
The test conducted on the 4th of July was said to prove Pyongyang had the ability to hit as far as Alaska.
The analytics could not determine the size of the warhead, however.
North Korean news source, Korean Central News Agency, says the launch was Hwasong-14, the same missile as the test earlier in the month. The source said the test was designed to show the maximum range with a large warhead. They also added that the U.S. should regard the launch as a “grave warning.”
North Korean media called the missile test a success, showing video and images of Kim Jong-un celebrating with troops. Kim Jong-un called the weapons program “a precious asset” that can’t be replaced.
Japan has deemed the actions of North Korea unacceptable. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Japan would cooperate closely with the U.S., South Korea, and others to put pressure on North Korea.
China also condemned the launch. Though a longtime ally of North Korea, China issued a statement asking Pyongyang to stop taking actions that would escalate tensions.
Following the test, U.S. military officials called the South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman to convey a strong commitment to the alliance between the two countries. After the call, both countries conducted an exercise as a show of force in response to the test that included firing missiles into the ocean.
Experts say that, though the tests continue, Pyongyang does not have the ability to launch a nuclear warhead at a long distance. They say the missiles would not be able to accurately hit targets. The heavier the warhead, the shorter the distance of the strike.
Others believe that with the continued testing, North Korea may overcome its challenges and develop a warhead within 5 to 10 years that could strike the United States. The U.S. believes the country will be able to launch an ICBM by early 2018. No one is sure of where the country stands in the development process of the missile.
North Korea still needs to miniaturize a nuclear warhead to fit on the head of a missile and be able to protect it against all the forces it faces as it enters the earth’s atmosphere.
With all the uncertainty, a spotlight is on the U.S. and its ability to defend itself against an attack. There have been large quantities of money invested in missile defense. There is a network of satellite sensors and equipment able to spot and track a missile launch.
Critics of the U.S. system say it’s unreliable. The Trump administration is reviewing the program. There are new generations of interceptor missiles that are coming into light, and only a handful would be able to defend against a North Korean threat. Testing of the U.S. system has come up with mixed results.
Some U.S. commanders admit that their defenses aren’t completely missile-proof and could become overwhelmed if a country attacked with a sizeable arsenal of missiles.