WASHINGTON – North Korea said it has successfully tested a new missile that puts the entire U.S. mainland within reach of a “super-heavy nuclear warhead” capable of withstanding re-entry into the Earth’s atmosphere.
North Korea test-fired the intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), dubbed the Hwasong-15, from north of Pyongyang east into the Sea of Japan Tuesday. The missile reached an altitude of almost 2,500 miles and flew a distance of about 620 miles over 53 minutes.
“With this system, the DPRK [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea] has become possessed of another new-type inter-continental ballistic rocket weaponry system capable of carrying super-heavy nuclear warhead and attacking the whole mainland of the U.S.,” North Korean state media KCNA reported.
The U.S.-based Union of Concerned Scientists said that had the missile been flown on a standard trajectory rather than a lofted trajectory, it would have been able to travel some 8,100 miles.
“Such a missile would have more than enough range to reach Washington, D.C., and in fact any part of the continental United States,” David Wright, co-director of the group, wrote in a blog post.
The missile range also puts major European cities, including London and Berlin, within striking distance.
However, Wright noted, the increased range indicates that the missile “carried a very light mock warhead,” which would mean that “it would be incapable of carrying a nuclear warhead to this long distance, since such a warhead would be much heavier.”
North Korea has said its weapons program is only aimed at the U.S. and meant to protect it from the U.S.’ “nuclear blackmail policy.”