North Korea just claimed a huge, terrifying missile milestone

Experts are divided on whether North Korea has passed another worrying missile milestone, with the clandestine and controversial country claiming to have successfully tested its first ICBM. The Hwasong-14 missile test was confirmed on North Korean television today, July 4th, along with claims about the details of its flight. While the missile traveled further in altitude than it did in horizontal distance, it's the implications of that which have many concerned.

According to local reports, Hwasong-14 flew approximately 579 miles from its launch site. However, it also is said to have reached an altitude of 1,741 miles. The US military – which initially described it as "an intermediate range missile" and thus not in the same category as an ICBM or Intercontinental Ballistic Missile – say that it was airborne for a duration of 37 minutes.

However, it's the potential for what that altitude and period of time might mean if angled more aggressively that has triggered a new round of fears. According to physicist and missile expert David Wright of the Union of Concerned Scientists, "if the reports are correct, that same missile could reach a maximum range of roughly 6,700 km (4,160 miles) on a standard trajectory." Though Hwasong-14 landed in the ocean waters off Japan, with a different trajectory it could have reached at least part of the US.

"That range would not be enough to reach the lower 48 states or the large islands of Hawaii," Wright pointed out, "but would allow it to reach all of Alaska."

The South Korean government quickly condemned the test, the latest in North Korea's escalating trials of long-range ballistics. President Moon Jae-in claims it was a clear violation of resolutions set down by the UN Security Council, and accused North Korea of flouting repeated warnings by the international community at large, Chinese news site Shanghai Daily reports. Moon also said that assessments were underway to decide whether the missile was indeed an ICBM.

"As a full-fledged nuclear power that has been possessed of the most powerful inter-continental ballistic rocket capable of hitting any part of the world, along with nuclear weapons, the DPRK will fundamentally put an end to the U.S. nuclear war threat and blackmail and reliably defend the peace and stability of the Korean peninsula and the region," local North Korean media reported Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un as saying of the trial, according to KCNA Watch.

In the US, President Trump took to Twitter to make his criticisms public. "North Korea has just launched another missile. Does this guy have anything better to do with his life?" the president tweeted. "Hard to believe that South Korea ... and Japan will put up with this much longer. Perhaps China will put a heavy move on North Korea and end this nonsense once and for all!"

His comments come shortly after he and South Korea's Moon met during a summit in Washington, D.C. at the end of June. There, among other topics, the process of removing nuclear forces from the Korean Peninsula was discussed. The two politicians also made statements urging North Korea to avoid potentially provocative military testing.

Those warnings come as North Korea steps up its missile testing. Hwasong-14's successful flight is the latest of a series of trials, each believed to be improving on range and stamina. However, even with its success, the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) said today "that the missile launch from North Korea did not post a threat to North America."