On Tuesday, sources in Pyongyang confirmed that North Korea successfully tested a long-range intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), which American officials say could reach as far as Alaska. One of the biggest, if not most potentially fatal questions lurking over the U.S. now — and, really, the world at large — is this: Could North Korea bomb the U.S. as a declaration of war on America?
According to a report from The Guardian, the Hwasong-14 intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) managed to fly at 933 km (580 miles) over 39 minutes before landing on a target in the sea. While it can't be said for sure if North Korea could launch a missile at the U.S. and declare war on the country, leaning into the concerns of military experts is a good way to gauge how serious a possibility it is.
The Pentagon spokesman Captain Jeff Davis told reporters that commercial ships and planes faced risks during the missile testing, because there was no official clearing of airspace. To Davis, the missile testing itself, and how it was done, demonstrated a potential threat to the U.S.: "This act demonstrates that North Korea poses a threat to the United States and our allies and we remain prepared to defend ourselves and our allies and to use the full range of capabilities at our disposal."
Following the successful missile test, a commander of American troops in South Korea, Gen. Vincent Brooks, told the New York Times: "Self-restraint, which is a choice, is all that separates armistice and war." His comment referred not only to the current tension between North Korea and the U.S., but also the Korean War, which ended in a ceasefire.
David later added: “As this alliance missile live-fire shows, we are able to change our choice when so ordered by our alliance national leaders. It would be a grave mistake for anyone to believe anything to the contrary."
In response to the missile testing and the possible threats of war, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson made a press statement laying out his concerns, and more specifically his call for other countries to stand against North Korea if needed.
"The United States strongly condemns North Korea's launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile. Testing an ICBM represents a new escalation of the threat to the United States, our allies and partners, the region, and the world," wrote Tillerson.
He continued: "Global action is required to stop a global threat. Any country that hosts North Korean guest workers, provides any economic or military benefits, or fails to fully implement UN Security Council resolutions is aiding and abetting a dangerous regime. All nations should publicly demonstrate to North Korea that there are consequences to their pursuit of nuclear weapons. We intend to bring North Korea's provocative action before the UN Security Council and enact stronger measures to hold the DPRK accountable."
While obviously it's impossible to predict whether or not we could be launched into war until it is a sure reality, the fact that military leadership in South Korea, spokespeople at the Pentagon, and the secretary of State are all paying attention and working on problem solving to prevent a war speaks volumes about the position we're in.
In response to the growing threat, the UN Security Council is holding an emergency meeting on Wednesday afternoon to discuss peaceful and proactive resolutions in the face of military threats. Hopefully, it won't come to war. But at this point, America can't afford to assume it's off the table.