For more than two months, North Korea refrained from public displays of its nuclear and ballistic missile technology, offering guarded hope that the communist nation had paused its ambitions — at least for a bit. On Tuesday, it ushered in a new era that has the world worried.
For more than two months, North Korea refrained from public displays of its nuclear and ballistic missile technology, offering guarded hope that the communist nation had paused its ambitions — at least for a bit.
Such optimism disappeared on Wednesday when United States and South Korean military officials detected the early-morning launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile, a device capable in theory of reaching the East Coast.
The provocation marked a significant moment for the nuclear ambitious North Korea and an international community trying to stop its weapons development. At the same time, the North’s breakthrough opened the possibility that the reclusive country and its dynastic regime might have the confidence to negotiate with countries seeking to defuse tensions in the region, analysts said.
“We know they were building to this. They got it no matter how badly we wanted to stop them. Our options to stop them are still awful,” said Robert Kelly, an associate professor in the Department of Political Science and Diplomacy at Pusan National University in South Korea. “We are stuck. We have to adapt to North Korea as a nuclear power, and we will actually.”
The ICBM, the most powerful tested this year, soared higher than the International Space Station, some 2,800 miles, traveling east about 600 miles before splashing safely in the East Sea.
The launch of what the North Koreans called the new Hwasong-15 missile represented a turning point in the rogue nation’s weapons development. That effort, involving four nuclear tests and at least 70 missile launches since 2012, has repeatedly violated United Nations resolutions and prompted economic sanctions.
President Trump said the United States would “handle” the threat, but security experts remained stumped about the international community’s options to slow North Korea’s advance to a full-fledged nuclear power capable of attacking around the globe.
That pessimistic outlook was forecast the day before by a key South Korean government official, Cho Myoung-Gyon, the minister of unification. While noting totalitarian North Korea’s relatively quiet period without missile or nuclear “provocations,” he said that the totalitarian nation had ruled out dialogue with the democratic South — and that its technological capacity would likely advance faster than expected.
The two nations, which share ethnic background and language, were separated after World War II — a split solidified by the Korean War, which is still technically unsettled, prompting six decades of tensions and the constant threat of another armed conflict.

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