UPDATE 1 – North Korea fires missile capable of reaching major U.S. cities

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North Korea has successfully test-fired a long-range missile capable of reaching large parts of the U.S. mainland, including Los Angeles and Chicago, missile experts and officials say. It comes just weeks after the country’s first ICBM test.

The missile was launched at 11:11 p.m. local time on Friday from Mupyong-ni in Jagang (Chagang) Province in North Korea’s northern region, according to foreign governments. It flew for about 45 minutes before falling into waters of Japan’s exclusive economic zone.

There was no immediate word on the exact type of missile, but data from Japan and South Korea indicated that it flew for about 45 minutes, traveling 1,000 kilometers (621 miles) and reaching an altitude of 3,700 kilometers (2,300 miles). This makes it an intercontinental ballistic missile.

The data suggests that the missile would be capable of reaching Los Angeles, Denver, and Chicago if flown at a standard trajectory, and possibly Boston and New York City, according to missile expert David Wright, a co-director of the Global Security Program at the U.S.-based Union of Concerned Scientists.

“Based on current information, today’s missile test by North Korea could easily reach the US west coast, and a number of major US cities,” Wright said. “Flown on a standard trajectory the missile would have a range 10,400 km (6,500 miles), not taking into account the rotation of the Earth.”

The rotation of the Earth increases the range of missiles which are fired to the east, depending on their direction.

“It is important to keep in mind that we do not know what payload the missile carried on this test,” Wright noted in a preliminary assessment of Friday’s test. “If it was lighter than the actual warhead the missile would carry, the ranges would be shorter than those estimated above.”

Nonetheless, the data vastly exceeds that of the previous missile test on July 4, which had already shown a range that included Guam, Alaska, and possibly Hawaii if flown on a standard trajectory.

There was no immediate word from North Korea, which usually takes several hours to announce major accomplishments or up to a day for other news. Both Japan and South Korea convened emergency meetings of their National Security Councils to discuss their response to the missile test.

In addition to it being the second long-range missile test, the latest test was unusual in several ways. The missile was fired from a region not previously used for missile launches and the test took place late at night, not early in the morning as is typical.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzō Abe said the test underscores the ‘grave and real security threat’ to Japan, according to the Kyodo news agency. Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga added that Japan will urge China to play a greater role in pressuring North Korea.

Friday’s test comes less than a month after North Korea carried out a successful test of its first intercontinental ballistic missile. The missile, which reached an altitude of 2,802 kilometers (1,741 miles), is capable of reaching Alaska, Guam, and potentially Hawaii if flown on a standard trajectory.

The breakthrough in North Korea’s missile program followed months of escalating tensions on the Korean Peninsula, fueled by North Korea’s frequent missile tests and its advancing nuclear weapons program, as well as U.S. military exercises and statements by President Donald Trump.

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