America Still Has Time To Counter The North Korea ICBM Threat

Americans do like to celebrate Independence Day with a spectacular fireworks display, but a test flight of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) is a bit more than we usually expect. But that’s the surprise Kim Jong Un claimed he had for us this Fourth of July, and it is a worrisome one. North Korea’s news agency, KCNA, has released a video of the launch, and asserted a maximum altitude of 2,802 kilometers before impacting in the sea 933 km downrange and 39 minutes later. The governments of the United States, South Korea and Japan have made statements confirming the launch and approximate level of performance. If true, this is a successful demonstration of a missile with intercontinental range, possibly one capable of reaching targets in the continental United States. We hadn’t expected this to happen this soon. However, it will probably require another year or two of development before this missile can reliably and accurately hit high-value continental US targets, particularly if fired under wartime conditions. For now, it is a more uncertain threat. But an uncertain threat to the US mainland can still be a powerful deterrent, and it probably won’t take years for us to see the diplomatic and political implications of that threat.

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