At 9:10 a.m. local time on July 4, North Korea launched a new ballistic missile, the Hwasong-14, from the Panghyon Airport in North Pyongan Province. The Hwasong-14 was tested at a lofted, or steep, trajectory. This flight path maximizes the altitude of the missile and reduces its distance traveled in order to avoid overflying neighboring regions and countries such as Japan. Pyongyang further claimed that the Hwasong-14 missile was an Intercontinental Ballistic Missile — a statement that is thus far backed up by the available flight data.
The Hwasong-14 achieved the farthest distance traveled by a North Korean missile
in tests so far. The previous longest shot occurred on May 14 with a test of the Hwasong-12. That missile reached an apogee of 2,111.5 kilometers (1312 miles) and a range of around 700 kilometers (435 miles) with a flight time of 30 minutes.
The July 4 Hwasong-14 flight characteristics show a clear improvement. According to the South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff, the missile landed more than 930 kilometers (578 miles) away from its launch point. According to the Japanese Ministry of Defense, the observed apogee of the missile greatly exceeded 2,500 kilometers. Finally, the United States Pacific Command reported that the flight time of the missile was 37 minutes. Given these flight details, the North Korean missile should technically be able to reach a distance of more than 6,000 kilometers (3,278 miles) on a standard trajectory.
Given that 5,500 kilometers is the minimum range for a missile to be classified as an Intercontinental Ballistic Missile, the North Korean claim that the latest test was an ICBM is substantiated by the missile's flight data. The assumed range of the missile is about 6,000 to 6,500 kilometers, which would enable Pyongyang to reach all of Alaska, but would not yet give North Korea the ability to strike the Hawaiian Islands or the continental United States.