North Korea launched a banned intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) on Thursday for the first time since November 2017. The Japanese Defense Ministry said it reached an altitude of over 3,700 miles and traveled 671 miles away before coming down in waters off Japan’s west coast.
The banned Hwasong-17 flew higher and further than any of North Korea’s previous tests and, according to analysts, is the largest liquid-fueled missile ever launched from a road-mobile launcher. Leader Kim Jong Un said on state media that the test was due to “daily escalating military tension in and around the Korean Peninsula” and meant to curb “U.S. imperialists.”
The ICBM is designed to deliver nuclear warheads and could reach the U.S. mainland. Its sheer dimensions indicate that North Korea may plan to arm it with either multiple warheads to strike several targets or decoys to overwhelm defensive weaponry.
There have been many tests in recent weeks from North Korea. The U.S. and South Korea say they were part of the ICBM program, not satellite launches as the reclusive state claims. The timing of the launch may be related to the elections of a new and more conservative South Korean president, Yoon Suk-yeol, who pledged stronger military preparedness to the North Korean threat.
China predictably urged restraint on “all sides” after North Korea’s test, displaying its newfound, self-appointed status as a neutral peacekeeper, ever since Russia invaded Ukraine.
Going from the dangerous to the ridiculous, state media released an 11-minute slow motion video showing Kim Jong Un doing his best impersonation of Top Gun. It comes complete with the tight leather jacket and sunglasses as the leader walks the tarmac and confers with two uniformed military men. They all check their Apple Watches and Kim, apparently knowing it’s time to launch, nods towards the hanger and the missile emerges.
Like the world needs this right now. The UN Security Council imposed sanctions on North Korea after the 2017 test, but present conditions are far more complicated with the Ukraine war raging.
Between plagues and war and $4 gas, it’s easy to forget the strange little guy on the Korean Peninsula. But that guy just tested a massive ICBM capable of reaching U.S. shores. And the U.S. would do well to keep its head on a swivel as it zeroes in on Ukraine.