The US now has a credible deterrent against intercontinental ballistic missiles, the head of the US Missile Defense Agency said, following the first-ever successful test of an interceptor against a mock-up ICBM target over the Pacific Ocean.
In fact, according to the Rodong Sinmun newspaper, Kim said that he would "turn the (United States) into ashes", in a threat that came in response to Tuesday's historic test of a ground-based interceptor system created to shoot down incoming intercontinental ballistic missiles - including nuclear-armed missiles headed toward the US mainland or other USA territory from North Korea.
"Initial indications are that the test met its primary objective, but program officials will continue to evaluate system performance based upon telemetry and other data obtained during the test", his statement said.
The U.S. has 36 interceptors in Alaska and California now and could have 44 by year's end.
Pentagon officials, however, did not offer further details except by saying it is just like "a bullet hitting another bullet".
The target was an intercontinental-range missile fired from a test range on Kwajalein Atoll in the Pacific, and the US used radars in the Pacific and overhead to track it. Syring said there was no homing beacon of any type on the missile.
Syring said the intercept outpaces foreign threats to the US through 2020, which is how far out the USA has designed these tests to replicate intelligence projections.
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North Korea's ballistic missile tests have created tensions between Pyongyang and Washington, with Kim Jong Un featuring commonly in discussions between President Donald Trump and Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping. Would North Korea launch in good weather, with good lighting conditions? "I'm even more confident today after seeing the intercept test yesterday". And that's with tests being scripted for success: daytime launches with personnel informed of the target's launch time, size, speed, and trajectory.
"We want to exercise the GMD system with more than one interceptor to gather data for what a first interceptor would do in terms of kill and what the second interceptor would see", he said.
U.S. national intelligence director Dan Coats warned Congress last week that "North Korea is an increasingly grave national security threat to the United States because of its growing missile and nuclear capabilities combined with the aggressive approach of its leader Kim Jong Un".
"This is one element of a broader missile defence strategy that we can use to employ against potential threats", Pentagon spokesman Captain Jeff Davis told reporters.
Vice Adm. Jim Syring, director of the Pentagon agency in charge of developing the missile defense system, called Tuesday's test result "an incredible accomplishment" and a critical milestone for a program hampered by setbacks over the years.
Despite the praise there are concerns about the system's consistency, as it has only destroyed about half the targets it has engaged in tests spanning the last decade.