On Tuesday, North Korea conducted its first successful test of an Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM).
The missile was launched at a high angle to ensure that it would fall into the Sea of Japan following its 37 minute flight, rather than cross over another country’s airspace. Therefore, the missile reached an altitude of over 1500 miles above the earth (for comparison, the International Space Station orbits at an altitude ranging from 205 to 270 miles and the now-retired Space Shuttle program had a maximum orbit of 600 miles above the earth).
If the North Korean missile were fired at a more normal angle of launch, then it would have an estimated range of 4,000 miles, making it capable of reaching Alaska and all points in-between.
In response, the U.S. has called for a closed-door meeting with the United Nations Security Council to discuss what to do with the endlessly-belligerent North Korea and its leader Kim Jong-un. Russia and China jointly released a statement calling for North Korea to cease its tests of nuclear weapons and missile technology and for the U.S. and South Korea to refrain from its long-standing joint military exercises.
The Trump administration is expected to put increased pressure on China to reign-in North Korea, with President Trump already tweeting to this effect (although his subsequent tweets seem to assume that China will be of little help). Trump will also be meeting with Russian President Putin at the G-20 Summit in Germany on Friday. U.S. National Security Advisor H. R. McMaster has said:
The threat is much more immediate now. So it’s clear we can’t repeat the same failed approach of the past. So the president has directed us not to do that, and to prepare a range of options — including a military option, which nobody wants to take, right?