North Korea flight tested a new intermediate-range missile the Pentagon assesses was practice for the reentry of a nuclear warhead into the atmosphere, according to defense officials.
The missile launch was tracked from Kosong in southeastern North Korea and was identified by U.S. intelligence agencies as a KN-17, a missile capable of carrying a nuclear warhead up to 3,400 miles—enough to reach Alaska and Guam. The Pacific island of Guam is a key hub for the U.S. military in the Pacific.
The missile launched around 4:30 p.m. Eastern time on Saturday and attained the unusually high altitude of around 1,200 miles to test its capability of delivering a nuclear warhead through the earth's atmosphere during reentry.
"This is a key step [in nuclear missile development] and something they currently cannot do," said a defense official familiar with intelligence reports.
After reentering the atmosphere, the missile impacted in the Sea of Japan around 400 miles from its launch point.