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Pentagon: North Korean Missile Threatened ‘Commercial Airliners’

The North Korean intercontinental ballistic missile launched Tuesday threatened commercial airliners, Pentagon Spokesman Navy Capt. Jeff Davis told reporters Wednesday.

The missile flew for approximately 40 minutes, the longest observed flight time for a North Korean missile, and reached a maximum altitude of nearly 1,700 miles. The missile was intentionally launched to achieve such a high trajectory and extend its range, Davis said.

“The missile flew through busy airspace used by commercial airliners, it flew into space … and an area used by commercial fishing vessels,” Davis said. “All of this completely uncoordinated … one of the many things we are not pleased with.”

Davis noted that “responsible nations” coordinate such action with the international community to ensure the safety of commercial vessels and airliners. The missile’s entry into space also could have threatened commercial satellites.

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Though this is the first successful North Korean ICBM test, it is not the first missile to threaten commercial airliners, shipping or space. The missile’s classification as an ICBM puts its range at approximately 4,000 miles, which could theoretically give North Korea the ability to strike Alaska. Davis noted that the U.S. assessed the missile’s threat to North America while in flight, and did not deem it necessary to shoot down.

The U.S. conducted a joint exercise Tuesday with South Korea firing off multiple missiles into the East Sea/Sea of Japan. Davis emphasized the ability of U.S. missile defense systems in the region to intercept any threat of a North Korean missile threatening U.S. allies in the region.

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