When North Korea shocked the world with the successful test of an intercontinental ballistic missile, the U.S. was watching, according to U.S. government sources.
North Korea tested the Hwasong-14 (KN-20) in early July. With a flight time of 37 minutes, the longest to date for North Korean missiles, the missile covered a distance of 935 kilometers and soared to a maximum altitude of 2,800 kilometers. The missile was lofted during the test, but fired on a normal trajectory, it could have a maximum range between 7,500 and 9,500 kilometers. There is a real possibility that North Korea’s ICBM could reach beyond Alaska and strike targets along the West Coast.
The U.S. observed the missile on the launch pad for 70 minutes prior to launch, senior editor at The Diplomat Ankit Panda revealed in a recent report, citing government sources with direct knowledge of the new ICBM. Fox News’ Jennifer Griffin, relying on a U.S. official, reported earlier that the U.S. watched North Korea fuel the ICBM.
The U.S. had warnings that an ICBM was coming. North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un warned in his New Year’s address that his country was in the final stages of developing a long-range missile, and North Korean officials and media outlets repeatedly stated that a major missile test was close at hand, with the Rodong Sinmun claiming in June that an ICBM test is “not too far away.” North Korea tested a new rocket engine that many observers suspected could serve a intercontinental ballistic missile multiple times this year, with the most recent test occurring last month. Furthermore, North Korea likes to to launch missiles on the Fourth of July.
And, in general, North Korea is constantly under observation. “Clearly we watch North Korea very closely,” Pentagon spokesman Navy Capt. Jeff Davis told reporters at a Department of Defense press briefing last Wednesday, “We are always seeking to be aware of their actions.”
With the U.S. watching at the time of the launch, there is the possibility that Kim Jong-un may have also been in the U.S. military’s sights.
Video footage from the ICBM test show the young dictator strolling around, even smoking near, the missile. Evidence suggests that the missile was not full of fuel as Kim was taking a smoke break, but there might have been tens of tons of highly-volatile fuel nearby for the vertical fueling process.
While the U.S. was watching North Korea prepare for the launch of its liquid-fueled, two-stage ICBM, the U.S. military did not take action to eliminate it or the North Korean leadership, actions which could potentially trigger a much larger conflict with a high casualty count.
“The U.S. military did not employ an elaborate missile defense shield because it did not threaten the U.S. homeland,” a Pentagon spokesman told reporters last week.
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