On 4 and 28 July, North Korea tested its long-expected intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM). Instead of setting a long-range trajectory, the engineers chose to loft their missiles, so they fell fairly close to the Korean Peninsula. Those watching had to guess how far the missiles could have flown on a flatter trajectory. Deliberately fired on the U.S. national holiday, the first test showed that the missile could reach Alaska. The second was interpreted to show sufficient range—about 7,000 miles—to reach the U.S. East Coast.
Neither test gave any indication of the missile’s accuracy or throw weight. Nor is there any public indication of how heavy a North Korean warhead might be, or how well it would survive the stress of atmospheric reentry. The consensus is that the North Koreans are well along in their quest to threaten the United States with nuclear attack, but that they have not quite reached a full capability. Estimates in recent years often projected initial operational capability to be about two years away, but those estimates did not indicate North Korea would have an ICBM this soon.