A missile launch by North Korea early Sunday may have been a test of a new type of long-range weapon that could fly further than any missile previously produced by the Kim Jong Un-ruled country, experts believe. In fact, the missile could travel all the way to the United States island territory of Guam in the northern Pacific Ocean — an island with a population of about 170,000 and whose residents are United States citizens.
According to analysis by the Japan Defense Ministry, the missile flew at an extremely steep trajectory, reaching a altitude of about 1,240 miles — about five times higher than the altitude of the International Space Station — and landed about 430 miles from the western coastline of North Korea.
The missile was in flight for about 30 minutes, the reports said.
But according to analysis by the Union of Concerned Scientists, the same missile flown at a normal altitude would travel about 2,800 miles, wrote UCS physicist and missile expert David Wright on Sunday.
The island of Guam — which has been a U.S. territory since 1898, though its native residents were not recognized as U.S. citizens until 1950 — lies slightly more than 2,000 miles from North Korea, well within the range of the missile test-fired on Sunday.
Wright believes the missile may have been one of the type previously unseen in the North Korean arsenal, displayed on April 15 at the country's massive Founder's Day Parade, honoring North Korea's first leader Kim Il Sung, grandfather of the reclusive country's current autocrat, Kim Jong Un (pictured at the top of this page).
However, when the White House issued a statement late Saturday night, U.S. Eastern Time, in response to the North Korea missile test, Donald Trump appeared less concerned with the newly vulnerable United States territory than with Russia.
While South Korea and Japan are the countries that are generally believed to be the first targets of any possible North Korean attack, the brief, 110-word White House statement mentions those countries only once each, while mentioning Russia three times.
"the President cannot imagine that Russia is pleased." pic.twitter.com/qpo4idM6MgGuam is not mentioned at all in the statement, which is intended to represent Trump's response to the North Korean missile test. But the statement says that Trump "cannot imagine Russia is pleased" with the Sunday missile test by North Korea.
— Sam Stein (@samsteinhp) May 14, 2017
While the missile launch was the seventh of 2017, and first since a failed test two weeks ago, the new test came just three days after South Korea inaugurated new President Moon Jae-In, who has broken with longstanding South Korea policy by taking a softer stance toward his country's hostile neighbor to the north, indicating that he would be willing to engage in negotiations with the Kim Jong Un government.
Moon, who was elected on Tuesday, has said that he would be willing to travel to Pyongyang to carry out negotiations personally, under the right circumstances.
Prior to Sunday's test, the longest range of any missile in North Korea's arsenal was believed to be about 1,800 miles, according to Wright, putting Guam well out of range. The west coast of the mainland United States lies about 4,800 miles from North Korea, while the Hawaiian islands are roughly 4,200 miles from the isolated country.
Despite warning in April that the United States could be headed for "a major, major conflict" with North Korea, Trump in May appeared to do an about-face, declaring that he would be "honored" to meet with North Korea's 33-year-old leader if it was "appropriate" to do so.
[Featured Image by Wong Maye-E/AP Images]