“If the previous launchings were for testing technologies, this one was a realistic demonstration of an intermediate-range ballistic missile capability,” said Chang Young-keun, a missile expert at Korea Aerospace University near Seoul. “In this test, the North’s missile actually flew at a realistic angle and trajectory.”
President Trump said in a statement Tuesday that North Korea had “signaled its contempt for its neighbors, for all members of the United Nations, and for minimum standards of acceptable international behavior.”
He added, “Threatening and destabilizing actions only increase the North Korean regime’s isolation in the region and among all nations of the world. All options are on the table.”
At the United Nations, members of the Security Council met in an emergency session late Tuesday afternoon to discuss the next steps. The meeting was held in private, and the American ambassador, Nikki R. Haley, said nothing to reporters as she entered. Earlier in the day, however, Ms. Haley said: “No country should have missiles flying over them, like those 130 million people in Japan. It’s unacceptable.”
The Hwasong-12 is an intermediate-range ballistic missile that the North says is designed to carry a large nuclear warhead. After North Korea launched it without warning, the Japanese government sent a text alert to its people, advising them to take protective cover in case the test went wrong.
North Korea rattled the Trump administration last month by launching two intercontinental ballistic missiles, the second of which demonstrated the potential to reach the contiguous United States. But officials and analysts doubted that the country had mastered the technology needed to protect a nuclear warhead from intense heat and friction as it re-entered the atmosphere from space.
Tuesday’s test might have been most important for the development of more dependable intermediate-range missiles. But experts say it could also provide information for the crucial re-entry technology needed for a warhead on an intermediate-range missile to survive the fiery plunge back into the earth’s atmosphere.