SEOUL, South Korea >> North Korea delighted in the international furor created by its first launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile, vowing Wednesday to never give up its missiles or nuclear weapons and to keep sending Washington more “gift packages” of weapons tests.
U.S. and South Korean forces, in response, engineered what was meant as a show of force for Pyongyang, with soldiers from the allied nations firing “deep strike” precision missiles into South Korean territorial waters. The missile firings Tuesday demonstrated U.S.-South Korean solidarity, the U.S. Eighth Army said in a statement.
The North’s first test of an ICBM, confirmed overnight by officials in the United States, is a major step forward for Pyongyang as it builds an arsenal of long-range nuclear-armed missiles that can hit anywhere in the United States. The North isn’t there yet — some analyst suggest it will take several more years to perfect such an arsenal, and many more tests — but a successful launch of an ICBM has long been seen as a red line, after which it would only be a matter of time — if the country isn’t stopped.
Worry spread in Washington and at the United Nations, where the United States, Japan and South Korea requested a U.N. Security Council emergency session, scheduled for Wednesday afternoon. The U.S. Secretary of States Rex Tillerson said the U.S. response would include “stronger measures to hold the DPRK accountable,” using an acronym for the nation’s formal name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
The uproar only seemed to inspire the North, which issued a statement through its state media Wednesday that described leader Kim Jong Un urging his scientists to “frequently send big and small ‘gift packages’ to the Yankees,” an apparent reference to continuing the stream of nuclear and missile tests Kim has ordered since taking power in late 2011.
The North also seemed pleased that its test came as Americans celebrated Independence Day. Kim reportedly told “scientists and technicians that the U.S. would be displeased to witness the DPRK’s strategic option as it was given a ‘package of gifts’ incurring its disfavor by the DPRK on its ‘Independence Day.’” The North has a history of conducting its weapons test on or around July 4.
Most analyses of the missile’s height, distance and time in the air were roughly similar.
U.S., South Korean and Japanese officials say it flew for about 40 minutes and reached an altitude of 1,500 miles, which would be longer and higher than any similar North Korean test previously reported. It also covered a distance of about 580 miles.
David Wright, the co-director of the Union of Concerned Scientists, said a missile with such capabilities would have a range that allows it to reach all of Alaska, but not the lower 48 states or the large islands of Hawaii.
North Korea said the missile flew as high as 2,802 kilometers before hitting a designated target in the ocean about 933 kilometers from the launch site in the North’s northwest. It said the missile flew for about 39 minutes and was made at the highest possible angle.
Russia’s military, however, said the missile flew considerably shorter and lower than others reported.