STR/AFP/Getty Images/Getty Images
North Korea has been testing missiles for weeks, and the status of their nuclear weapons development program has been a source of questions and concern for years.
But after a number of recent missile tests failed very publicly, Sunday afternoon saw the test-firing of a missile that came closer to Russia than any previous launches.
The country's leader, Kim Jong Un, supervised the launch of the Hwasong-12 missile that reached an altitude of 2,111.5 kilometers (1,312 miles) and flew 787 kilometers (489 miles), KCNA said. That's higher and closer to Russia than other North Korean tests, according to US officials.
The test was “aimed at verifying the tactical and technological specifications of the newly developed ballistic rocket capable of carrying a large-size heavy nuclear warhead.”
U.S. officials reported that the missile landed 60 miles from the Russian city of Vladivostok. And Japanese Defense Minister Tomomi Inada suggested that it might be a new type of missile altogether, noting that it reached an altitude of 2,000 km (1,240 miles) and remained in the air for 30 minutes.
David Wright, of the Union of Concerned Scientists, wrote on his organization's blog that if those measurements are correct, North Korea's recent threats regarding their ability to “reach the United States” with their missiles may not be entirely overblown:
This range is considerably longer than the estimated range of the Musudan missile, which showed a range of about 3,000 km in a test last year. Guam is 3,400 km from North Korea. Reaching the US West Coast would require a missile with a range of more than 8,000 km. Hawaii is roughly 7,000 km from North Korea.
Russia responded to the missile launch by “putting its eastern air defenses on high alert,” according to the CNN report.