Which US cities could North Korea’s ballistic missile hit?


The US believes North Korea fired a missile shortly before midnight Japan time, or 11 a.m. ET on Friday, a defense official confirmed to Business Insider.

Kim, announcing the second intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) test, said it demonstrated that North Korea could launch “at any place and time.” The KCNA also quoted him as saying that “the test confirmed all the US mainland is within our striking range.”

But should these claims be taken seriously? Can North Korean ICBMs really strike any target in the US? After all, North Korean leaders are known for exaggerating their nuclear and missile program achievements.

Read: What is an intercontinental ballistic missile?

Standard trajectory and altitude

But it seems that Pyongyang is not entirely incorrect about its ICMB claims.

Military analysts say the latest North Korean ballistic missile appeared to have a range of around 10,000 kilometers (6,200 miles), which would put the US mainland within its reach.

“Based on current information, today’s missile test by North Korea could easily reach the US West Coast, and a number of major US cities,” arms expert David Wright of the Union of Concerned Scientists said on his blog.

Los Angeles, Denver, and Chicago appear to be well within range of the ICBM, which may also be capable of hitting Boston and New York, Wright said.

North Korean officials said the latest missile had flown for 47 minutes and reached an altitude of more than 3,700 kilometers. On a standard trajectory, the missile would have a range of 10,400 kilometers.

*It is reported that the ‘Taepodong 2’ ICBM has been tested.


Earth’s rotation boosts range

According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, North Korea launched its missile on high trajectory to allow it to fall in the Sea of Japan, rather then flying over Japan. However, it was still possible to make the calculation about the range.

If fired eastward, the rotation of the Earth could also increase the range of the missile, meaning the missiles have different ranges depending on the direction they are fired in.

Los Angeles is at a distance of 9,500 kilometers from North Korea, and the calculated range of the missile toward the city is 11,700 kilometers, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists. If fired in the direction of Boston, the missile range would be 10,750 – still just about enough to reach the city.

New York would also be roughly in range, but Washington DC would probably be just outside the strike area.

The organization stressed that the missile range also depends on the mass of the payload it carries. A heavier payload than that used in the test flight might mean the range would be reduced.

Source: DW.

9 thoughts on “Which US cities could North Korea’s ballistic missile hit?”

    1. The US installed six THAAD (Terminal High Altitude Area Defense System, an American anti-ballistic missile defense system, designed to shoot down short, medium, and intermediate range ballistic missiles in their terminal phase by intercepting with a hit-to-kill approach missile) systems at Seongju in South Korea, plus they have batteries in Kodiak, Alaska, Hawaii, Wake island Guam and at Fort Bliss in Texas. The North Koreans aren’t going to be hitting US soil in my lifetime. Also, Itel and satellites pick up launches being prepared. If push came to shove, an F-15K Slam Eagle could take out a hot missile site with an AGM-84H/K SLAM-ER missile.

      1. That’s true. The Chinese are trying to calm the situation down through diplomatic channels. I hope that some compromise can be reached, no-one wants a nuclear-tipped ICBM to be launched. Thanks for your input GP.

  1. IMO the only credible threat NK poses would be the remote possibility of a submarine launched weapon that could reach an American target relatively quickly and escape our robust defense systems, even that would require a high degree of skill and luck, but it is within the realm of possibility. Would they actually attempt such an insane attack? I think that would be determined almost solely by the degree of desperation NK experienced. If, as in the past, they were suffering from extreme shortages of food (much worse than current conditions) and Kim was facing an uprising/revolt, then yes I think he might resort to desperate measures in order to maintain his position. At this point I think it’s just saber rattling designed to strengthen their position on the world stage, and China intends to exploit the situation to their own ends. The potential for economic collapse in China (which will occur eventually) is a far more pressing concern in my view, and when that does happen, NK will become a far more involved and dangerous threat. All things considered, it seems the stage is being set for an eventual WWIII and it will inevitably be nuclear, but I think it will be at least 20 more years or so in the making.

    Humankind as a whole offers very little in the way of hope for the future, the pervasive insanity that grips the world today will surely worsen. Despots like Kim Jong-un are merely symptoms of the greater sickness that afflicts the entire population of earth. In the end we will destroy ourselves. Witnessing the rapid downfall of mankind is painful enough, I hope I’m not here to see the ugly end.

    1. Thank you for such an insightful and in-depth analysis. I agree that as things stand, NK is highly unlikely to use nuclear weapons, but, as you point out is trying to strengthen their position on the world stage and send a message to their threats such as South Korea, the US and Japan that they are prepared to defend themselves if attacked.

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