U.S. confirms Musudan re-entered atmosphere

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U.S. confirms Musudan re-entered atmosphere

The United States confirmed North Korea’s latest medium-range missile launched last Wednesday went into space and re-entered the atmosphere, an acknowledgement indicating the country has mastered the technology deemed vital for hitting the U.S. mainland.

“We saw the missile launch, we saw it go into space and come back down 250 miles away in the Sea of Japan (East Sea)” Pentagon spokesman Navy Capt. Jeff Davis told reporters Monday, according to Yonhap.

He added that the launch could be considered a “success” if this result was Pyongyang’s intention.

Pyongyang said in an announcement made a day after the lunch that it was their intention to put the missile into the space and have it re-enter the atmosphere.

Pyongyang claimed the missile reached a height of 1,413.6 kilometers (878.37 miles) and overcame temperatures of over 7,000 degrees Celsius (12,632 degrees Fahrenheit), caused when an object re-enters the atmosphere.

Possessing a missile capable of withstanding such high temperatures means Pyongyang has mastered the technology needed to produce a ballistic missile capable of flying across the Pacific to strike the U.S. mainland.

Such missiles have to leave the earth’s atmosphere and re-enter, a scenario that will unnerve Tokyo and Washington, which are frequently targets of the North’s threats.

The United States’ concern was reflected when Capt. Davis said Japan and South Korea should “adequately work together to defend against all kinds of missiles, not just those with an intermediate range, but the ones that could potentially threaten our homeland here.”

If put on a normal angle on a launching pad, experts say the missile could have flown around 3,000 kilometers, which places the Musudan’s maximum range between 3,000 and 4,000 kilometers.

A total of six Musudan launches over a two month period have raised speculation that Pyongyang is in a rush to master medium-range missile technology.

Since their first such deployment in 2007, it wasn’t until April that the North began experimenting on Musudan missiles. The North’s alleged success on the sixth Musudan launch poses a threat to the U.S. military base in Guam, where troops are stationed that would be sent to the Korean Peninsula if a conflict broke out.

BY KANG JIN-KYU, CHAE BYUNG-GUN [kang.jinkyu@joongang.co.kr]

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