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July 5, 2017

North Korea test-fires missile potentially capable of reaching U.S.

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  • North Korea appears to be making progress in developing a nuclear arsenal. On Tuesday, the state performed what appears to be its most advanced test in pursuit of a nuclear weapon to date, test-firing a missile that might be capable of reaching Alaska, although it may not be able to deliver a nuclear weapon.
  • The intercontinental ballistic missile flew for approximately 40 minutes and reached an altitude of 1500 miles. It landed about 580 miles away in the Sea of Japan. Experts estimate that with a flatter trajectory, the missile could be capable of traveling more than 4000 miles, past Anchorage, Alaska.
  • It is unknown whether or not North Korea is capable of building a nuclear warhead that could survive a journey on a long-range missile and detonate successfully.
  • As president-elect, President Trump vowed on Twitter that North Korea would never build a missile capable of reaching the United States. After the test, he tweeted that China should increase pressure on communist nation.

Key Terms

Intercontinental ballistic missile: A self-propelling projectile for nuclear warhead delivery across continents.

Non-proliferation: An agreement to prevent the spread of nuclear weapon technology and promote international cooperation in the peaceful use of nuclear energy.


  1. Essential question: What could the development of nuclear weapons by North Korea mean for the United States?
  2. What is nuclear non-proliferation and why is it important? What countries support it?
  3. Why might North Korea be motivated to research and develop nuclear weapons?
  4. Why did Americans feel especially threatened by nuclear weapons during the Cold War, and by which country? What are the similarities and differences between the situation then and the situation now?
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