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How deadly is North Korea's Hwasong-15 missile? All we know about Kim Jong-un's new weapon 'which could strike the US and Britain'

Mirror logo Mirror 29/11/2017 Anthony Bond
a close up of smoke: Credits: AFP © Provided by Trinity Mirror Plc Credits: AFP

Kim Jong-un has once again raised the risk of a devastating nuclear war with America by firing a new, powerful ballistic missile.

The Hwasong-15 missile travelled 621 miles and reached an altitude of 2,796 miles as it travelled towards Japan.

The rogue country described the intercontinental ballistic missile as "the most powerful" it has fired to date.

Kim Jong-un wearing a suit and tie: Credits: Photoshot © Provided by Trinity Mirror Plc Credits: Photoshot Ominously, North Korea boasted that it could reach "all of mainland USA".

US President Donald Trump said: "It is a situation we will handle. We will take care of it."

So, what do we know about the new missile and how worried should we be?

When did North Korea fire the missile?

North Korea launched the missile from Pyongsong, South Pyongan Province, about 18 miles north of its capital, Pyongyang.

It was the first time a missile has been fired from this location.

a screen shot of a video game: Credits: AFP © Provided by Trinity Mirror Plc Credits: AFP Unusually, the launch took place in the middle of the night, at around 2.28am local time.

Previous missile tests by the country have taken place in the morning.

The location and timing are likely a reflection of Pyongyang’s continuing efforts to test weapons from anywhere and at any time.

It also makes it more difficult for other countries to predict and possibly intercept a launch.

a close up of a sign: Credits: AFP © Provided by Trinity Mirror Plc Credits: AFP “The test is unusual in that it was conducted in the dead of night, perhaps reflecting North Korean concerns about avoiding a U.S. ballistic missile defence intercept,” the U.S.-based Centre for Strategic and International Studies said.

President Trump was briefed while the missile was in the air.

How far did it travel?

a man sitting on a runway: Credits: REUTERS © Provided by Trinity Mirror Plc Credits: REUTERS The missile, the first test in 75 days, was fired on a steep trajectory and flew for 53 minutes.

It reached an altitude of 2,780 miles and flew 590 miles as it travelled towards Japan.

It landed in the Sea of Japan but unlike two previous missile tests it did not go over the country.

North Korea proudly boasted about the launch on state TV.

Credits: AFP © Provided by Trinity Mirror Plc Credits: AFP

What has North Korea said about the Hwasong-15?

North Korea has proudly boasted that the test involved a new type of intercontinental ballistic missile - the Hwasong-15.

The test was a "success" and could reach "all of mainland USA" with North Korea saying it was "the most powerful" missile the country has fired to date.

The country says the newly developed Hwasong-15 has “much greater advantages in its tactical and technological specifications and technical characteristics” than its Hwasong-14 ICBM.

It has led Kim Jong Un to declare that North Korea has "finally realised the great historic cause of completing the state nuclear force, the cause of building a rocket power".

North Korea described itself as a "responsible nuclear power", but warned its strategic weapons were developed to defend its sovereignty and territorial integrity from "the U.S. imperialists' nuclear blackmail policy and nuclear threat".

Donald Trump standing next to a man in a suit and tie: Credits: REUTERS © Provided by Trinity Mirror Plc Credits: REUTERS

How worried should the West be?

Many analysts and officials are now awaiting the release of photos and video from the launch to identify any differences between the Hwasong-15 and previous North Korean missiles.

However, some experts have already declared it could reach the US and Britain.

“If (today‘s) numbers are correct, then if flown on a standard trajectory rather than this lofted trajectory, this missile would have a range of more than 8,100 miles),” the U.S.-based Union of Concerned Scientists said in a statement.

That means all of the continental United States including Washington D.C. and New York could be within range of a North Korean missile.

a large building: Credits: Rex © Provided by Trinity Mirror Plc Credits: Rex

Could it carry a nuclear weapon?

The biggest concern for the West is whether a long-range missile like the Hwasong-15 could carry a nuclear warhead.

Kim Jong-un has boasted that the development has completed "the state nuclear force".

International observers, however, said it remains unclear how heavy a payload the missile was carrying, and if it could carry a large nuclear warhead far enough to strike the United States.

James Mattis wearing a suit and tie: Credits: AFP © Provided by Trinity Mirror Plc Credits: AFP It also remains unclear whether the North Koreans have perfected a re-entry vehicle capable of protecting a nuclear warhead during its descent.

But its becoming increasingly likely that North Korea will soon have the ability to threaten the continental United States, if it doesn't already.

"We don't have to like it, but we're going to have to learn to live with North Korea's ability to target the United States with nuclear weapons," said Jeffrey Lewis, head of the East Asia Nonproliferation Program at the Middlebury Institute of Strategic Studies.

What has the US said?

The North Korea issue has become the biggest headache of Donald Trump's presidency.

Speaking to reporters last night, the US President added: "Thank you very much, as you have probably heard, and some have you have reported, a missile was launched a little while ago from North Korea.

"I will only tell you that we will take care of it.

"We have General Mattis in the room with us and we've had a long discussion on it. It is a situation that we will handle."

However, Trump's Defense Secretary warned that the latest launch shows Pyongyang has the potential to target anywhere in the world.

General James Mattis told reporters at the White House: "[The missile] went higher frankly than any previous shot they’ve taken, a research and development effort on their part to continue building ballistic missiles that can threaten everywhere in the world, basically."

a group of people in uniform: Credits: AFP © Provided by Trinity Mirror Plc Credits: AFP

What happens next?

Washington has repeatedly said that all options, including military ones, are on the table in dealing with North Korea while stressing its desire for a peaceful solution.

Despite this, fears that Kim Jong-un would launch an attack on South Korea if President Trump launched a strike seem to rule out military actions.

"Diplomatic options remain viable and open, for now," U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said.

Other than carrying out existing U.N. sanctions, "the international community must take additional measures to enhance maritime security,including the right to interdict maritime traffic" travelling to North Korea, Tillerson said in a statement.

The U.N. Security Council was scheduled to meet on Wednesday to discuss the launch, which Secretary-General Antonio Guterres strongly condemned.

"This is a clear violation of Security Council resolutions and shows complete disregard for the united view of the international community," his spokesman said in a statement.

China, North Korea's lone major ally, expressed "grave concern" at the test, while calling for all sides to act cautiously.

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