The claim, which was carried by KCNA, the North’s state-run mouthpiece, has not been independently verified. Yonhap, the South Korean news agency, quoted South Korean military officials as saying more information was needed to determine the missile’s technical details, but that, in Yonhap’s words, North Korea “seems to have yet to master missile technology for atmospheric re-entry,” an important aspect of the type of ballistic missile the North claims to have test-fired.
Even if the missile fired Sunday wasn’t an ICBM, experts say the test represents an important step toward the development of such technology. John Schilling, writing in 38North, a website that focuses on geopolitics on the Korean Peninsula, points out that the test “represents a level of performance never before seen from a North Korean missile.” Indeed, the missile reached a height of 1,242 miles and traveled about 435 miles before landing in the sea west of Japan. The AP adds “had been fired at a normal angle, analysts say, it could have flown much farther — estimates vary between 4,000 and 7,000 kilometers (2,500 and 4,350 miles), the upper number putting Alaska and possibly Hawaii within striking distance.”