For the first time since September, North Korea has carried out a successful missile test, fired off the base at Sain Ni, traveling about 620 miles before landing in the Sea of Japan. It’s nowhere near the farthest surface distance traveled from launch site.
Still, the missile appears to mark an important advance for the North Korean program, reaching a record height of 2,796 miles in the course of its flight. This further reflects the improved capability of the intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) to survive re-entry.
While there are still questions about North Korea’s ability to steer missiles on long-range flights, the conceivable range of these ICBMs now puts the entire continental US in their sights. That doesn’t necessarily mean the North Koreans can hit those targets, but it makes it at least conceivable.
That makes US threats to “totally destroy” North Korea less and less practical, with a growing probability that North Korea could carry out devastating retaliatory strikes in response to a US attack.
This has, of course, been North Korea’s goal for years, with officials very public about wanting to have a retaliatory capability against the US that would blunt the regular US threats of attacking. Now having reached that, or nearly so, the US may be obliged to approach talks with North Korea on a more even level.