North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un ordered his engineers on Tuesday to launch the country’s new intercontinental ballistic missile with “courage” a day ahead of the flight test where it demonstrated its reach deep into the U.S. mainland.
State television on Wednesday broadcast a photo of Kim’s signed order where he wrote: “Test launch is approved. Taking place at the daybreak of Nov. 29! Fire with courage for the party and country!”
North Korea’s state television said that the nuclear-capable intercontinental-ballistic missile that was launched earlier is “significantly more” powerful than the previous weapon and puts the entire United States in its crosshairs.
The report called the weapon a Hwasong 15. The launch was detected after it was fired early Wednesday morning from a site near Pyongyang.
South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency, which first reported the launch, said the missile launch happened around 3 a.m. local time in North Korea. South Korea fired pinpoint missiles into nearby waters to make sure North Korea understands it can be “taken under fire” by the South, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said.
The South Korean military said that the missile was fired from an area near Pyongyang. It reached a height of 2,796 miles and traveled 596 miles, demonstrating the potential to reach a range of 8,100 miles. David Wright, a U.S. physicist who has studied North Korea’s missile and nuclear programs, said that this would put any part of the U.S. comfortably within reach of a North Korean missile strike.
One factor that could significantly affect the missile’s range is the payload. If, as expected, it carried a light mock warhead, then its effective range would have been shorter, analyst said.
North Korea has been working to perfect “re-entry” technology to one day have a warhead be able to survive re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere. This ICBM would be able to hit any city within the U.S. if a warhead is able to survive re-entry.
It was determined by the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) that the missile “did not pose a threat to North America, our territories or our allies,” Pentagon spokesman Col. Robert Manning III told Fox News.
Manning, in an earlier statement, said: “We are in the process of assessing the situation, and we will be providing additional details when available.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.