North Korea claims successful test of intercontinental ballistic missile

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North Korea claims to have conducted its first test of an intercontinental ballistic missile [ICBM], a development that, if confirmed, could move the regime closer to being able to strike the US mainland and dramatically strengthen its hand in negotiations with Washington.

The claim contradicts earlier reports by the US military that the North had test-fired an intermediate-range weapon. Analysts said data suggested the missile has the range to strike Alaska but not other parts of the continental US.

In a rare announcement on state Korean television, an emotional newsreader said the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, had personally overseen the “landmark” test of a Hwasong-14 missile.

North Korea was now a “a strong nuclear power state” and had “a very powerful ICBM that can strike any place in the world”, the newsreader said.

She added that the missile had reached an altitude of 2,802km (1,741 miles) and flew 933km (580 miles) – longer and higher than any of the regime’s previous similar tests. Those figures roughly concurred with analysis by Japanese and South Korean officials.

While the apparent advancement in North Korea’s missile technology will add to concerns that the regime is moving closer to developing the capacity to strike the US mainland, many analysts still doubt whether it can miniaturise a nuclear weapon sufficiently to fit it onto a missile. They also believe the regime is unlikely to have mastered the technology needed for an ICBM to survive the re-entry into the Earth’s atmosphere.

South Korea’s military confirmed that North Korea had fired an “unidentified ballistic missile” into the Sea of Japan – known as the East Sea in Korea – from Banghyon in North Pyongan, a province near its border with China.

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