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Photos of North Korea Missile Launch Capture Worrying Sign

Missile flew 10 times higher than space station
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 29, 2017 5:30 AM CST
Updated Nov 29, 2017 6:23 AM CST
North Korea's Missile Appears Able to Hit DC
People cheer as they watch the news broadcast announcing North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's order to test-fire the newly developed inter-continental ballistic missile Hwasong-15, Wednesday, Nov. 29, 2017, at the Pyongyang Train Station in Pyongyang, North Korea.   (AP Photo/Jon Chol Jin)

(Newser) – North Korea says its latest missile is capable of reaching the entire US mainland—and experts warn that Pyongyang could be right. The Hwasong-15 missile launched early Wednesday went up almost 2,800 miles—10 times the height of the International Space Station—and flew around 590 miles, demonstrating what analysts say is the capability to hit American cities including Washington, DC. "With this system, we can load the heaviest warhead and strike anywhere in the mainland United States," North Korean newsreader Ri Chun Hee said in a special broadcast, per the Washington Post. "This signifies that our rocket development process has been completed." Japanese officials say the intercontinental ballistic missile did not fly over the country, but landed in the sea off its northern coast. In other developments:

  • Game-changer. Analysts say that Pyongyang probably still has some technical hurdles to overcome, including mastering targeting and the ability to deliver heavy warheads, but the launch is still a game-changer, Reuters reports. "We don't have to like it, but we’re going to have to learn to live with North Korea’s ability to target the United States with nuclear weapons," says Jeffrey Lewis, head of the East Asia Nonproliferation Program.

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  • US response. President Trump said the US would "take care of it." Secretary of State Rex Tillerson condemned the launch but called for a peaceful solution."Diplomatic options remain viable and open, for now. The United States remains committed to finding a peaceful path to denuclearization and to ending belligerent actions by North Korea," he said, per the Guardian.
  • "A responsible nuclear power." North Korean state media declared that "as a responsible nuclear power and a peace-loving state," Pyongyang will "make every possible effort to serve the noble purpose of defending peace and stability of the world," the BBC reports. State media added that the weapons "would not pose a threat to any country"—unless North Korean interests were at stake.
  • Victory? With South Korea launching a barrage of its own missiles soon after the North Korean launch, some fear war could be imminent, though optimists say Pyongyang could be on the verge of declaring victory in its weapons program efforts and switching focus to its economy, the AP reports. They point to Pyongyang's apparent restraint in not firing the missile over Japan or into the waters around Guam.

  • International condemnation. The test was condemned by countries including Germany and Russia, where Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov called it "a provocative act, which provokes further growth in tension and which moves us further away from the point where a settlement of the crisis can begin," reports Reuters.
  • A worrying sign. Aerial photos did not spot the missile on a launchpad, which analysts say suggests that North Korea has started fueling its missile horizontally. "This shortens the time from when they become visible to when they go in the air, and makes it less likely that the US will be able to strike before it launches," Rodger Baker, of risk analysis company Stratfor, tells the New York Times.
  • More tests? The AP reports that Pyongyang may now turn to further nuclear testing after demonstrating its nuclear prowess. If North Korea does attempt an atmospheric test over the Pacific, as it has suggested it might, the move may draw a military response from the US.
(Read more North Korea stories.)

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