Posted: July 28, 2017
By Theresa Seiger, Cox Media Group National Content Desk
An intercontinental ballistic missile fired by North Korea on Friday traveled about 1000 km from Mupyong-ni before splashing down in the Sea of Japan, Pentagon officials said.
The U.S. Department of Defense detected the launch around 10:40 a.m. EDT. Pentagon spokesman Navy Capt. Jeff Davis said in a statement that officials were assessing the launch Friday.
"The North American Aerospace Defense Command determined the missile launch from North Korea did not pose a threat to North America," Davis said. "Our commitment to the defense of our allies, including the Republic of Korea and Japan, in the face of these threats, remain ironclad. We remain prepared to defend ourselves and our allies from any attack or provocation."
What is an ICBM and why should we be worrying?
Here is what we know now.
What is an ICBM?
An intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) is a missile that has the ability to carry a warhead more than 3,400 miles either through the air, or through space.
The missile must be able to survive re-entry if it flies through space.
The missile would normally be used to deliver a nuclear weapon but could carry conventional warheads.
An ICBM is different from other ballistic missiles because it can be launched more quickly and can fly farther than other ballistic missiles.
What does “ballistic missile” mean?
A ballistic missile is powered and guided toward a target but falls under gravity onto its target. The trajectory is a high, arching path.
What kinds of missiles has North Korea tested?
Pentagon officials said they detected an ICBM launched on July 28 by North Korea.
It traveled about 620 miles from Mupyong-ni, where it was launched, before splashing down in the Sea of Japan. The trip took about 45 minutes.
North Korea previously said it launched a Hwasong-14 missile on July 4.
According to U.S. officials, it was a two-stage missile that they had never seen.
The missile flew as high as 1,741 miles before it hit a target off the coast of Japan some 580 miles away from its launch site. It took 39 minutes to hit the target.
Despite claims from North Korea that the missile could hit any target in the world, analysts say the Hwasong-14 likely has a range of 4,970 miles. Alaska is 3,560 miles from North Korea.
Can the missile deliver a nuclear weapon to the U.S. mainland now?
Weapons experts believe that the North Koreans are likely about two years away from developing a missile that can reach the United States mainland. The U.S. is 6,434 miles from the Korean Peninsula.
There has been no evidence that North Korea has miniaturized a nuclear warhead, something they would have to do to deliver such a weapon to the U.S. mainland.
Can the U.S. shoot it down?
The job of the Missile Defense Agency is to develop ways to defend against such weapons. However, a test of a new defense system carried out in Japan in June did not have great results. The test of the SM-3 intercepter failed.
A defense system that North Korean officials often refer claim is threatening to its people is the THAAD (Thermal High Altitude Area Defense) system. THAAD is meant to intercept short-, medium- and intermediate-range missiles. It has a range of around 125 miles.
Why be concerned?
North Korea’s leader is considered unstable and his regime is a brutal one. It is believed that North Korea spends between one-quarter and one-third of its GDP on the military and weapons development in a country where nearly 2 million people starved to death in the 1990s.
On the first of the year, Kim promised that his country would carry out a test of an ICBM. After seven months, it has. Defense officials in North Korea say they exploded a hydrogen bomb in 2016.
Kim has vowed to use the weapons the country is now testing. On Wednesday, he said North Korea would “demonstrate its mettle to the U.S." and that its weapons programs would never be part of any negotiation with the United States.
In the wake of North Korea test firing an intercontinental ballistic missile last week, speculation rose that a nuclear warhead could reach Alaska – with Anchorage being the most realistic target.
But state residents and leaders aren’t too worried about it, according to a report from The Washington Post.
“I’m worried about moose, not missiles,” Anchorage Mayor Ethan Berkowitz told The Post. “Bears, not bombs.”
People in the state have talked about the possibility of missile strikes for decades. So other hazards – like avalanches covering the highway and bear maulings at campgrounds – are more top-of-mind for Alaskans.
Todd Sherwood, an attorney who served in the Air Force for 15 years, told The Post that if North Korea were to do anything serious, the U.S. military reaction would probably be “disproportionate” and severe.“I’m more worried about whether I’m going to fall off my paddle board on an Alaska glacier lake this summer,” he said. “And I’m not all that worried about that.”
As life continues for Alaskans, a pair of U.S. B-1B Lancer bombers flew over the Korean Peninsula on Friday in a response to North Korea’s test of the ICBM.
“North Korea’s actions are a threat to our allies, partners and homeland,” said Gen. Terrence O’Shaughnessy, the Pacific Air Forces commander. “Let me be clear: If called upon, we are trained, equipped and ready to unleash the full lethal capacity of our allied air forces.”
Wrapping up his second European tour, President Donald Trump searched for consensus with Asian allies Saturday on how to counter the "menace" of North Korea after its test launch.
North Korea's successful test launch of an ICBM was a milestone in its long-term effort to build a missile that could carry a nuclear warhead to attack the United States.
U.S. officials Friday said the Trump administration will ban American citizens from traveling to North Korea.
The Associated Press, citing anonymous sources, said that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson decided to implement a “geographical travel restriction” for North Korea, which would make the use of U.S. passports to enter that country illegal. Sources told the AP that the restriction would go into effect 30 days after a notice is published in the Federal Register.
The move comes in the wake of the death of university student Otto Warmbier, who passed away after lapsing into a coma in a North Korean prison.
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