North Korea Launches First ICBM Since 2017 in Already Tense Nuclear Environment

North Korea Launches First ICBM Since 2017 in Already Tense Nuclear Environment
This photo provided by the North Korean government shows missiles during a military parade marking the ruling party congress, at Kim Il Sung Square in Pyongyang, North Korea on Jan. 14, 2021. (Photo: Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service, AP)

North Korea tested a new type of intercontinental ballistic missile early Thursday that landed in the Sea of Japan, the first ICBM test conducted by the country since 2017. Experts believe the missile could have been the Hwasong-17, a “monster” ICBM first revealed in October of 2020, but there’s no confirmation on that speculation yet.

South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff reports the ICBM was launched at 2:34 p.m. local time (1:34 a.m. ET) and the missile flew 1,080 km, reaching an altitude of 6,201 km, according to NK News. The missile was likely airborne for about 1 hour and 11 minutes, according to the Japanese military’s estimates, reported by Reuters.

This latest test, which is the most consequential in years, was the 11th missile test of the year for North Korea, though the country has tested other systems adjacent to its nuclear capabilities in recent months. South Korea almost immediately responded with its own test on Thursday.

The last ICBM test by North Korea before Thursday’s happened in November of 2017, when a Hwasong-15 flew for 53 minutes, reaching a height of 4,474 km and travelling about 950 km across the globe before plunging into the Sea of Japan.

Before that, North Korea conducted an ICBM test on July 4, 2017, when the missile flew for about 45 minutes after travelling about 3,701 km in altitude and at a distance of roughly 999 km before landing in the Sea of Japan. Experts concluded at the time that such a missile would be able to hit most major U.S. cities, though Washington D.C. would likely have been out of range.

The test on Thursday is the first since early in President Donald Trump’s presidency. Trump infamously became friendly with Kim, but that didn’t stop the North Koreans from continuing their nuclear weapons development program. And it was only recently revealed that Trump asked rock musician Kid Rock his advice on what to do about North Korea while in the White House.

The world can be thankful that Trump isn’t at the helm right now trying to game out a possible nuclear war with Secretary of Defence Rock, but it’s not clear that President Biden actually has a handle on any of this. All the average person can do is hope that cooler heads prevail and we don’t launch into World War III, no matter who starts it.

Editor’s Note: Release dates within this article are based in the U.S., but will be updated with local Australian dates as soon as we know more.