The U.S. and South Korea conducted a ballistic-missile drill Wednesday, a day after North Korea tested a missile that experts say could reach Alaska.
“Self restraint, which is a choice, is all that separates armistice and war,” General Vincent Brooks, commander of U.S. forces Korea, said in a joint statement with General Lee Sun Jin, the chairman of South Korea’s joint chiefs. “As this Alliance missile live fire shows, we are able to change our choice when so ordered by our Alliance national leaders. It would be a grave mistake for anyone to believe anything to the contrary.”
As we reported Tuesday, North Korea said it tested an intercontinental ballistic missile, making it, in the words of its state-run television, “a full-fledged nuclear power … capable of hitting any part of the world.” The announcement said the Hwasong-14 missile reached an altitude of 2,802 kilometers (1,731 miles) and traveled 933 kilometers (580 miles) for 39 minutes before hitting a target in the Sea of Japan. South Korean and Japanese officials said the missile traveled 578 miles (930 kilometers), “greatly exceeded” an altitude of 2,500 kilometers (1,500 miles), and flew for around 40 minutes.
ICBMs, which are fitted with nuclear warheads, have a minimum range of 5,500 kilometers (3,400 miles), and many experts said Tuesday that while North Korea’s test was its best ever, the missile may not have technically been an ICBM—though the U.S. State Department in its statement condemning the test referred to it as an ICBM. Still, David Wright, co-director and senior scientist at the Union of Concerned Scientists, said in a blog post that the missile could “reach all of Alaska.” Unnamed intelligence officials later told U.S. media that the rocket launched Tuesday was likely to have been a two-stage ICBM, a dramatic increase in North Korea’s military capabilities.