This image made from video of an Aug. 14, 2017, still image broadcast in a news bulletin on Tuesday, Aug. 15, 2017, by North Korea’s KRT shows North Korean leader Kim Jong Un receiving a briefing in Pyongyang. North Korea said leader Kim Jong Un was briefed on his military’s plans to launch missiles in waters near Guam days after the Korean People’s Army announced its preparing to create “enveloping fire” near the U.S. military hub in the Pacific. Independent journalists were not given access to cover the event depicted in this photo. (KRT via AP Video)

 

Shortly after midnight, Korea time, North Korea fired a single missile. That broke a 70-plus day period with no launches. This is a fairly standard pattern for North Korean launches and nothing should be read into it.

The average number of launches for the fourth quarter is “one” and despite some claims, this is not the most active launch year on record. Last year 24 missiles were fired by North Korea.

The launch was expected.

And the US has had the E-8 JSTARS reconnaissance aircraft and the RC-135 Cobra Ball ballistic missile tracking aircraft on station since late last week.

This is the official announcement:

The U.S. Department of Defense detected and tracked a single North Korea missile launch today at about 1:17 p.m. EST. Initial assessment indicates that this missile was an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).

The missile was launched from Sain Ni, North Korea, and traveled about 1000 km before splashing down in the Sea of Japan, within Japan’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). We are working with our interagency partners on a more detailed assessment of the launch.

And South Korea was ready with a counter-demonstration:

This is what we think we know at this point. Cue the mood music:

This from Union of Concerned Scientists, which are hardly honest brokers on the issue of nuclear weapons but they are what they are:

If these numbers are correct, then if flown on a standard trajectory rather than this lofted trajectory, this missile would have a range of more than 13,000 km (8,100 miles). This is significantly longer than North Korea’s previous long range tests, which flew on lofted trajectories for 37 minutes (July 4) and 47 minutes (July 28). Such a missile would have more than enough range to reach Washington, DC, and in fact any part of the continental United States.

 

And then this:

Oops.

Key takeaways:

1. The test is nothing extraordinary in terms of timing. It is well within the range of average in regards to winter missile tests.
2. The missile was an ICBM.
3. Despite early reports, only one, not three, missiles were fired and it was not fired from a submarine.
4. The calculated range of the missile places the entire United States within range of a future North Korean nuclear weapon.
5. There is no word as of yet on if a reentry vehicle was tested or how it performed.

As I’ve said before, what North Korea is doing right now is trying to fix engineering and manufacturing problems with its ballistic missiles. And they will eventually do that.