(CNSNews.com) – North Korea marked the eve of U.S. Independence Day by launching what it claims to be an intercontinental ballistic missile, six months after Kim Jong-un in a new year speech declared that preparations for test-firing an ICBM had “entered the final stage.”
The regime’s KCNA official news agency reported that “respected Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un signed the order to carry out the test-fire of intercontinental ballistic rocket Hwasong-14 on July 3, Juche 106 (2017).”
The brief dispatch added that the National Defense Academy had reported on the successful launch of the missile, under Kim’s personal guidance.
An official propaganda website posted a video clip in which an excitable newsreader announced the launch, and featuring images of a missile on a mobile launcher, and then apparently being launched. Kim is seen watching through binoculours, and then waving a fist in triumph and applauding, alongside celebrating military officials
The launch by North Korea of any missile is in defiance of the international community. But if it is confirmed that this projectile does have ICBM characteristics it will be be a direct challenge to President Trump: After Kim made his new year announcement the then-president-elect tweeted, “North Korea just stated that it is in the final stages of developing a nuclear weapon capable of reaching parts of the U.S. It won’t happen!”
Late Monday night, Trump’s reaction on Twitter was contemptuous: “North Korea has just launched another missile. Does this guy have anything better to do with his life?”
“Hard to believe that South Korea and Japan will put up with this much longer,” the president tweeted. “Perhaps China will put a heavy move on North Korea and end this nonsense once and for all!”
The South Korean military confirmed only that an “unidentified” ballistic missile had been launched into the East Sea (aka Sea of Japan) from North Pyongan province at around 9:40 a.m. local time – around 8:40 p.m. eastern time on Monday night. North Pyongan stretches from north of Pyongyang to the border with China.
The joint chiefs of staff in Seoul also said the missile had flown more than 930 kilometers (about 578 miles).
North Korea in 2012 first unveiled at a military parade what it called the Hwasong-13, a road-mobile ICBM also known as the KN-08.
The following year then-joint chiefs of staff chairman Adm. James Winnefeld told a Pentagon briefing that the U.S. military believed the KN-08 “probably does have the range to reach the United States.”
Early last year, then-Director of National Intelligence James Clapper referred in the intelligence community’s 2016 Worldwide Threat Assessment to the “KN-08 road-mobile ICBM” and said that “we assess that North Korea has already taken initial steps toward fielding this system, although the system has not been flight-tested.”
The 2017 Worldwide Threat Assessment did not mention that missile by name, but did say that several ballistic missile tests last year “probably shortened North Korea’s pathway toward a reliable ICBM, which largely uses the same technology.”
“North Korea is poised to conduct its first ICBM flight test in 2017 based on public comments that preparations to do so are almost complete and would serve as a milestone toward a more reliable threat to the U.S. mainland,” this year’s report stated.