North Korea launched a possible intercontinental ballistic missile on Monday morning in what analysts said indicated the growing reliability of the reclusive state’s illegal weapons program.

The missile launched Monday exhibited the range to hit anywhere in the United States, according to a preliminary assessment from the Japanese Defense Ministry.

“The ICBM-class ballistic missile launched this time, if calculated based on the trajectory, depending on weight of warhead, could have a flying range of over 15,000 kilometers (9,320 miles), meaning the whole of the US territory would be within range,” Shingo Miyake, parliamentary vice-minister of defense, told reporters at a news conference in Tokyo.


Japanese authorities reported the missile flew at a highly lofted trajectory for about 73 minutes and to an altitude of 6,000 kilometers (3,700 miles) and a distance of about 1,000 kilometers (621 miles) before falling into the sea west of the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido.

If would need to be fired at a flatter trajectory to hit the United States. And that’s an ability Pyongyang has yet to prove, according to Joseph Dempsey, research associate for defense and military analysis at the International Institute for Strategic Studies.

“While lofted tests can provide assurances of full engine burns and staging, they do not represent the same challenges of a normal ICBM trajectory. This includes the ability of the warhead to survive a prolonged shallower reentry into the atmosphere or its accuracy over much longer distances,” Dempsey told CNN.

While the type of missile fired was not reported, Jeffrey Lewis, a professor at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies, said Monday’s test was likely the third of the Hwasong-18 missile, a powerful solid-fueled ICBM North Korea also launched in April and July. It shows a maturing North Korean missile program, according to Lewis.


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