The CIA has assessed that North Korea’s Hwasong-14, the intercontinental ballistic missile tested twice in July, has the capability to reach the US with a nuclear payload, according to The Diplomat’s Ankit Panda.
Though the reentry vehicle, or the tip of the warhead that carries the nuclear device and plunges back down to earth at many times the speed of sound, disintegrated upon nearing the earth’s surface, the CIA says that’s only because it used a lofted trajectory, according to The Diplomat.
Basically, North Korea wanted to demonstrate the intercontinental reach of the Hwasong-14, but could not safely do so by firing it at another country. If the US saw a North Korean ICBM heading its way, it may choose to respond with a nuclear counterattack.
So instead, North Korea shot the missile nearly straight up in the air, and the missile landed just a few hundred miles away in the ocean near Japan. The CIA assessment says the reentry vehicle would have survived on a normal trajectory, and only broke up because of the extreme angle.
The CIA report comes after other US intelligence assessments said North Korea can miniaturize nuclear warheads to fit them on ballistic missiles, meaning that US now maintains that Kim Jong-un has fully developed the capability to strike the US mainland.
While the question remain about whether North Korea can accurately guide a missile to a target, much of the US’s west coast is so populous that any detonation there would be devastating.
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