The North Korean missile that soared high above the Sea of Japan was hailed by state-run television as a “shining success.”
But to US officials, it was a most unwelcome surprise: a weapon with intercontinental range, delivered years before most Western experts believed such a feat possible.
Hours after the apparently successful test on Monday, intelligence agencies continued to run calculations to determine precisely how the missile, dubbed the Hwasong-14, performed in its maiden flight.
But the consensus among missiles experts was that North Korea had achieved a long-sought milestone, demonstrating a capability of striking targets thousands of kilometres from its coast.
So North Korea is now very close to its goal of being able to deliver nuclear weapons to US cities.
The danger is not so much that they will do so (as there would be only one possible response, and it would result in their extinction), but that this ability will make them feel immune and they will start acting more aggressively in other areas – maybe sinking a Japanese ship and threatening a nuclear response if they get attacked back.