The North Korean military successfully launched an intercontinental ballistic missile from the northern border region of Jagang Province Friday at around 11:41 pm local time (11:11 am EST), according to reports from South Korean media and the Pentagon. Editor’s note: Yes, the times above are correct. North Korea created its own Time Zone that is a half hour off from the rest of the world. Pyongyang Time
The hermit kingdom has already carried out 14 missile tests this year in spite of a strict United Nations ban. The launch took place just three weeks after Pyongyang fired an ICBM on July 4, surprising global intelligence agencies with its substantially improved range and potential capability of reaching the state of Alaska and the American West Coast. North Korea claims the latest test shows the the entire continental US is in range.
The latest projectile appeared to be even more sophisticated than the July 4 test, showing unanticipated technological progress by North Korean weapons scientists. The Friday ICBM traveled much higher and farther than its predecessor, reaching around 3,000 km (1,865 miles) before plummeting into the sea near the coast of Japan, according to Japanese state news outlet NHK.
Government spokesman Yoshihide Suga reported that the missile appeared to fly for around three quarters of an hour, without sustaining any damage, before it descended into Japan’s exclusive economic ocean zone.
The weapons launch has been internationally condemned, with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe calling a meeting of Tokyo’s National Security Council while Japanese scientists continue to analyze the apparent test firing. The South Korean Yonhap news agency also reports that President Moon Jae-in has scheduled an emergency convening of Seoul’s National Security Council Saturday in response to the launch.
Earlier this week, China and the United States announced that progress had been made toward drafting a new UN resolution, which would introduce new sanctions on North Korea if it continued to test fire ballistic missiles. The hermit kingdom has already faced strict UN sanctions since it began its first nuclear activities back in 2006.
The latest provocation is regarded as a dangerous step forward for Pyongyang, which has long been seeking a projectile capable of reaching the US mainland. Pentagon officials declared Tuesday that North Korea appears capable of developing a reliable intercontinental nuclear missile by 2018. One of the only enduring technical challenges for the country’s scientists is to manufacture an ICBM that can penetrate the upper atmosphere without inflicting damage to the warhead, according to the Washington Post.
This week Australia and the United Kingdom also backed the US in demanding China put more pressure on the rogue state. The Trump administration revealed increasing frustration with Beijing for failing to encourage its neighbor to cease nuclear weapons research and military provocations, with the president tweeting June 20 that China’s efforts “have not worked out”. Reports indicate that China has begun making arrangements to deal with a potential humanitarian crisis where Liaoning and Jilin province border North Korea, by moving military forces to the area and creating emergency bunkers for civilians.
The White House earlier announced that the era of “strategic patience” toward Pyongyang had ended, with President Donald Trump promising to confront North Korea “very strongly” over its weapons program. The leadership appears determined to antagonize Japan, South Korea and the United States in spite of harsh UN sanctions and repeated warnings, having recently stunned the global intelligence community with its rapid advances in nuclear weapons technology.
Tucker is a foreign correspondent and media analyst for Not Liberal.