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North Korea Tests ICBM Before US-South Korea Drills

Holland McKinnie
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North Korea confirmed Sunday that it conducted an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) test on Saturday to strengthen its “fatal” nuclear attack capacity against its rivals. The totalitarian nation also threatened additional decisive acts in response to reports of a series of planned joint military drills between the U.S. and South Korea.

In its first missile test since January 1, North Korea’s state-operated official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said the launch involved the existing Hwasong-15 ICBM, which was organized “suddenly” without prior notice at leader Kim Jong Un’s order. In addition, the missile was reportedly aimed at a steep angle to avoid hitting neighboring countries.

The launch test was purported to verify the weapon’s reliability and the combat readiness of North Korea’s nuclear force, according to KCNA. The missile’s flight details showed that it flew at a distance of approximately 615 miles for 67 minutes before striking a target area in waters between the Korean Peninsula and Japan. The missile reached a maximum altitude of about 3,585 miles. 

Experts said that based on those figures, if the missile were to be fired at a standard trajectory, it would be capable of reaching the mainland U.S.

According to KCNA, the launch demonstrated North Korea’s “powerful physical nuclear deterrent” and its efforts to “turn its capacity of fatal nuclear counterattack on the hostile forces” into a powerful one that cannot be countered. However, whether North Korea has a functioning nuclear-tipped ballistic missile remains unknown to Western intelligence.

North Korea has three existing ICBM types, all of which use more limited-range liquid fuels. It is reportedly working on a solid-fueled missile system, which would be more mobile and harder to detect before its launch.

North Korean state media has repeatedly referred to the joint U.S.-South Korean drills as an “invasion rehearsal.” 


Kim Yo Jong, the influential sister of dictator Kim Jong Un, accused South Korea and the U.S. of “openly showing their dangerous greed and attempt to gain the military upper hand and predominant position in the Korean Peninsula.”

The joint military exercise planned for this week is designed to sharpen the U.S.-South Korea nuclear weapon response plan. The drills will be followed by field training in March. South Korea’s military said this week the exercises would reinforce the country’s “overwhelming response capacity” against potential North Korean aggression.