US Fighter Jets Fly After North Korea's Latest Test

Pyongyang launches ICBM, and US puts on a show of force later with South Korea
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Feb 19, 2023 9:15 AM CST
US Fighter Jets Fly After North Korea's Latest Test
This photo provided by the North Korean government shows a test launch of a Hwasong-15 intercontinental ballistic missile at Pyongyang International Airport on Saturday.   (Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP)

North Korea said Sunday its latest intercontinental ballistic missile test was meant to further bolster its “fatal” nuclear attack capacity and threatened additional powerful steps over military drills between the United States and South Korea. The United States responded by flying long-range supersonic bombers in a show of force later Sunday during separate joint exercises with South Korean and Japanese warplanes, per the AP. Saturday’s ICBM test is the North's first missile test since Jan. 1. North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency said its launch of the Hwasong-15 ICBM was organized “suddenly” at Kim's direct order, apparently in response to the imminent military exercises involving the US.

The Hwasong-15 launch demonstrated the North’s “powerful physical nuclear deterrent” and its efforts to “turn its capacity of fatal nuclear counterattack on the hostile forces” into an extremely strong one that cannot be countered, KCNA said. It said the missile was fired at a high angle and reached a maximum altitude of about 3,585 miles, flying a distance of about 615 miles for 67 minutes before hitting a pre-set area in the waters between the Korean Peninsula and Japan. The steep-angle launch was apparently to avoid neighboring countries. The flight details reported by North Korea show the weapon is theoretically capable of reaching the mainland US.

Later Sunday, US B-1B bombers and other aircraft separately trained with South Korean and Japanese fighter jets over and near the Korean Peninsula. A South Korean military statement said Sunday’s training reaffirmed Washington’s “iron-clad” security commitment to South Korea. North Korea is sensitive to the deployment of US B-1B bombers, which are capable of carrying a huge payload of conventional weapons. Whether North Korea has a functioning nuclear-tipped ICBM is still a source of outside debate, as some experts say the North hasn’t mastered a way to protect warheads from the severe conditions of atmospheric reentry. The North says it has acquired such a technology.

(More North Korea stories.)

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