North Korea stated Monday that it had test-fired an intermediate-range ballistic missile that has the capability of striking the US territory of Guam in the Pacific, a troubling escalation in the country’s weapons program.
The launch of the Hwasong-12 missile was first reported by South Korean and Japanese officials on Sunday.
It was the seventh missile launch by North Korea this month and the first launch of a missile capable of carrying a nuclear payload since 2017.
The Korean Central News Agency, the North Korean government’s propaganda outlet, said the test was conducted to verify the accuracy of the Hwasong-12 missile and claimed the rocket took a high trajectory to avoid flying over neighboring countries.
South Korea and Japan reported that the missile flew about 497 miles and reached an altitude of 1,242 miles before landing in the sea between the Korean Peninsula and Japan.
According to those details, the missile is the most powerful North Korea has tested since 2017 when the Hermit Kingdom conducted a series of test-firings as it sought to develop nuclear-capable weapons that would allow it to target military bases in Northeast Asia and the US mainland.
The Hwasong-12 rocket is a ground-to-ground nuclear-capable weapon with a maximum range of 2,800 miles when fired on a standard trajectory.
That’s more than enough capability to hit Guam, which houses strategic US military bases and about 7,000 troops.
Biden administration officials said Sunday’s launch and the series of January tests show North Korea is resuming trials of nuclear weapons and intercontinental ballistic missiles.
They added the White House would respond in a way “designed to show our commitment to our allies.”
“It’s not just what they did yesterday, it’s the fact that this is coming on the heels of quite a significant number of tests in this month,” the official said.
Talks between Washington and Pyongyang have been stalled since a second summit in 2019 between former President Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un collapsed over the US’ refusal to ease sanctions.
With Post wires