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Dagyum Ji is a senior NK News correspondent based in Seoul. She previously worked for Reuters TV.
North Korea defined an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) as a rocket with a range of more than 6400 km, in an article in the Rodong Sinmun, an organ of the ruling Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK), on Sunday.
The report came less than three weeks after the North claimed that it had “successfully carried out the test-fire of inter-continental ballistic rocket Hwasong-14” on July 4, without revealing its maximum range.
The ICBM, which North Korea has named the “Hwasong-14”, flew 933 km at a maximum altitude of 2802 km for 39 minutes.
In the aftermath of the test, the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies and the Nuclear Threat Initiative estimated its maximum range to be 6700 km.
“In a word, an intercontinental ballistic rocket (ICBM in English abbreviation) is the rocket flying from one continent to another continent in accordance with the appointed flight trajectory,” the Rodong Sinmun article read.
“In general, [the ICBM] is a type of surface-to-surface long-range strategic ballistic rocket which flies over a range of 6400 km making trajectory and reaching the target while equipped with a nuclear warhead.”
North Korea is arguing for a different minimum range than the South Korean military, which classifies a missile as an ICBM if it has a range of more than 5500 km – as does the Federation of American Scientists (FAS).
Former Minister of National Defense Han Min-koo told the National Assembly’s National Defense Committee on July 5 that the range of Hwasong-14 was estimated to be between 7000 and 8000 km.
A South Korean expert said the report contradicted North Korea’s previous claims about the Hwasong-12 missile, which was test-launched on May 14.
Rodong Sinmun reported on Sunday that “Hawaii where the U.S. Pacific Command (USPACOM) is stationed and Alaska” were within the range of the “new medium long-range strategic ballistic rocket Hwasong-12.”
“The distance is around 5900 km from Wonsan to Anchorage in Alaska and the distance to Honolulu in Hawaii is around 7300 km,” Kim Dong-yub, a Professor at the Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES) at Kyungnam University, told NK News.
But Pyongyang described the Hwasong-12 as a medium long-range ballistic rocket, Kim said, although, by the DPRK’s standards, “it’s correct to describe the Hwasong-12 as the ICBM.”
“The North intended to emphasize that Hwasong-12 is the ICBM in accordance with the U.S. and South Korean standards, as well as saying they successfully launched an actual ICBM, Hwasong-14, based on the country’s standard and above those of others.”
In the article entitled “Intercontinental ballistic rocket which is the powerful nuclear attack means,” the North said the country’s ICBM had traveled along an elliptical trajectory at a velocity of 6 – 7 km/s (17.63 – 20.57 Mach) – contradicting former South Korean Minister Han’s claim that the Hwasong-14’s maximum velocity was “far below Mach 20.”
The South Korean military classifies a missile as an ICBM if its maximum speed is over Mach 21, or 4.5 miles per second in the ascent stage.
The Rodong Sinmun also said the ICBM’s circular error probability, the radius of the circle within which a warhead has 50% chance of landing, had reached 100-130 m.
Edited by Oliver Hotham
Featured Image: Rodong Sinmun