In yet another bit of news that sounds like one of the fake headlines they show at the start of a post-apocalyptic movie to explain how the world was destroyed: North Korea has announced the successful test of the Hwasong-15, an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) that can purportedly reach all of the continental United States.
The test of the missile – described by state media as their “most powerful missile so far” – was personally authorised by Kim Jong Un and marks their most far-reaching missile test yet. According to state media, the leader claimed with the test that they “finally realized the historic task of completing [their] nuclear-armed force, the great feat of becoming a rocket power.”
— Steve Herman (@W7VOA) November 29, 2017
The BBC is reporting that South Korean military tracked the missile travelling a lateral distance of 960km into Japanese waters and, more disturbingly, reaching an altitude of 4,500km. According to the Union of Concerned Scientists‘ David Wright, if those numbers were correct and the missile was flown on a standard trajectory instead of the “loft” trajectory of the read (read: going straight up) it exhibited in the test, it would have an effective range of around 13,000km, “more than enough range to reach Washington, D.C., and in fact any part of the continental United States“.
Wright notes that there is no information regarding the payload of the missile, and while it might be capable of sustaining that flight currently, it doesn’t necessarily indicate that it would have the same range while carrying a nuclear warhead:
We do not know how heavy a payload this missile carried, but given the increase in range [as compared to previous tests] it seems likely that it carried a very light mock warhead. If true, that means it would be incapable of carrying a nuclear warhead to this long distance, since such a warhead would be much heavier.
Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe described the launch as a “violent act” that “can never be tolerated“, with US president Donald Trump ominously responded by saying “It is a situation that we will handle“.
As with a lot of North Korea’s actions, this is likely posturing, specifically in response to the United States adding NK to the list of states that sponsor terrorism, but at the same time, according to The Telegraph, Hawaii has recently started routinely testing 400 air raid sirens that have until now been dormant since the Cold War ended, so feel free to still feel a little bit frazzled.