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North Korean ICBM Could Strike Deep Into US Territory, Leading Experts Say

North Korea tested Friday its second intercontinental ballistic missile this month, demonstrating previously unseen capabilities.

North Korea tested the Hwasong-14 ICBM successfully on July 4, announcing to the world that it had the ability to strike targets in the U.S. Early assessments of the missile’s range suggested that only cities in Alaska were within striking distance, but later evaluations of the weapon’s capabilities suggested it could deliver a nuclear payload to targets in Alaska, Hawaii, and parts of the West Coast.

The missile tested Friday, likely the HS-14, performed even better than its predecessor.

The first missile tested in early July flew for 37 minutes, flying to a maximum altitude of 1,741 miles and covering a distance of 580 miles. The weapon tested Friday flew for 45 minutes, soaring to a maximum altitude of 2,300 miles and covering a distance of 620 miles. Both missiles were fired on a lofted trajectory.

Fired along a standard trajectory, the new ICBM might have a range of 6,500 miles, which would put Denver and Chicago in the crosshairs, according to David Wright, co-director and senior scientist for the Union of Concerned Scientists.

This is consistent with the assessment of Jeffrey Lewis, a leading arms expert and the director of the East Asia Nonproliferation Program in the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey. While some doubted North Korea’s capabilities, Lewis suggested that the evidence strongly pointed to a missile that could potentially strike targets as far away as New York, which may be a real possibility.

Initial assessments indicate that the missile fired Friday is a powerful weapon, but it may turn out to be more impressive still, as some experts assess that the missile may have a range as high as 6,835 miles, as the natural rotation of the Earth favors missiles heading in an eastward direction. At that range, Boston, New York, and Washington, DC would be within striking distance.

“I’m confident that the Hwasong-14 is a high-performance missile that can deliver large payloads (well in excess of 500 kilograms, a reasonable size for a compact fission device) to more than 5,500 kilometers [3,417 miles], which is the technical range threshold for ICBM-grade performance,” Ankit Panda, the senior editor at The Diplomat, told TheDCNF Wednesday. “The U.S. government currently assesses the Hwasong-14 to be capable of striking between 7,500 and 9,500 kilometers [4,660 miles and 5,900 miles],” he explained, adding that “the Hwasong-14 is likely more capable yet.”

Assuming the missile tested Friday is the HS-14, it would appear that his assessment was correct.

Friday’s test occurred at night, signaling that this was not a propaganda stunt or a photo opportunity, but rather a chance to show North Korea’s operational capabilities.

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