North Korea is more dangerous than ever. On Sunday, it revealed a new rocket that is capable of reaching an altitude of 1,242 miles.
To put this into perspective, space starts at 62 miles high. To top that all off, satellites typically orbit the Earth at 100 miles above the ground. The international space station is on average 248 miles above the Earth’s surface.
North Korea officially has the capacity to surpass all of these, which is terrifying, because it now makes them a target.
Their rocket, after reaching this unprecedented altitude, then landed in the sea, just west of Japan. They are planning on using these missiles, which are now capable of exiting and then re-entering the atmosphere, as a delivery system for their nuclear capabilities.
Testing the missile into the sky as opposed to above land was their way of finding out exactly how far they can launch their missiles without impeding on anyone else’s borders.
Missile experts say that this missile would have gone as far as 4,000 km if it used a standard trajectory as opposed to being shot directly upwards, which is closer and closer to reaching their ultimate goal of 6,000 km, the standard ICBM range.
While unusual, this sharp trajectory with an extremely high altitude allowed North Korean scientists to test the range of the missile without directly flying over any neighbouring countries. The altitude would also allow the North to test the atmospheric re-entry vehicle under the extreme heat, pressure and vibration. The KCNA noted both facts in its public statement. This “lofted” trajectory would be equivalent to over 4,500km if launched at a standard trajectory, putting US bases in Guam well in range. It is indeed the longest-range missile North Korea has ever tested (aside from its space launch vehicles). The KCNA report said that, as ever, the test had been overseen by the North’s Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un. It said he had told the scientists and technicians involved “not to be complacent” but to build further “nuclear weapons and methods of delivery” until the US made “the right choice”. The White House has mooted talks with North Korea under the right conditions, which would include a halt in missile tests. But in a statement on Sunday, it said Pyongyang had been “a flagrant menace for far too long” and that this “latest provocation” should “serve as a call for all nations to implement far stronger sanctions”. The US ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, said on Sunday that until Mr Kim meets the US conditions, “we’re not sitting down with him”. South Korea’s newly elected President Moon Jae-in, who is seeking deeper engagement with the North, said it was a “reckless provocation” while China, North Korea’s only real ally, is urging restraint.