North Korea demonstrated its most capable threat to the U.S. yet on the night of Nov. 28th with a 53-minute flight of what initial reports are calling an intercontinental ballistic missile.
North Korea has tested ICBMs before, but the country has never shown the ability to reach important East Coast targets in the U.S., like Washington D.C. or New York City. This time, not only did they show range, North Korea showed the kind of skills and tactics they'd need to actually nuke one of those targets.
North Korea usually avoids testing at night or in the winter or fall, but the timing of the test likely included a message: the threat to the U.S. from ICBMs is real.
An earlier North Korean missile test. (Photo from KCNA)
South Korea and Japan detected a radio signal they found usually consistent with launch preparations earlier on Nov. 28, but said it was likely "within days" until a test took place.
The quick run up from the signal to the launch and the timing in the dead of night suggest North Korea prioritized practicing a realistic nuclear strike on the US instead of just a drill.
In the past, the US has spotted North Korea's preparations for a launch, but testing at night obscures that. Additionally, North Korea's focus on road-mobile missile launchers serves the purpose of pulling off quick strikes from hidden locations — an ideal strategy for attacking a vigilant force like the U.S.
The launch follows the most heated ever passage of US-North Korean relations with President Donald Trump threatening to "totally destroy" Pyongyang and Kim Jong Un's propaganda outlet sentencing Trump to death. The U.S. led the world to sanction and isolate North Korea after its sixth nuclear test in September, when it displayed the capability to level entire cities with a nuclear device.
While it's unknown what missile North Korea fired or if it can actually carry a nuclear payload as far as it flew on Nov. 28, the launch communicates that Washington D.C. is now within range.