North Korea Might Have U.S. Within Missile Range   

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Dec. 23 2012 11:00 AM

North Korea Rocket Might Have Western United States in its Range

158352939
The wreckage of North Korea's rocket is seen at the Second Fleet Command's naval base on December 14, 2012 in Pyeongtaek, South Korea

Photo by Byeon Yeong-Wook/DongA Daily/Getty Images

North Korea’s rocket launch earlier this month seems to have demonstrated that the secretive country has the technology to fire a warhead more than 6,200 miles, according to South Korean officials who analyzed the debris from the first stage of the rocket. That would mean the U.S. West Coast could be in the range of a North Korean missile. But there’s no need to panic just yet because “there's no evidence that the North has the guidance systems or re-entry capability needed to mount an actual strike,” points out the BBC’s Charles Scanlon. And experts believe the country is still “years away from mastering the technology needed to miniaturize a nuclear bomb to mount on a missile,” notes Reuters.

The South Korean official who briefed journalists took pains to emphasize that the welding on the rocket was “crude” and the material used in the first stage of the rocket wouldn’t be used by countries with advanced space programs. But in a crucial detail, the design of the rocket suggests an “Iran connection,” reports the New York Times, noting that foreign-made components appear to contradict North Korea’s claims that the rocket was “indigenously produced 100 percent.” Regardless, the successful launch has been a huge boost to young leader Kim Jong-un. On Saturday, North Korea praised 101 scientists and technicians involved in the development of the rocket, awarding them a "hero's title," one of the most prestigious awards in the country.

Daniel Politi has been contributing to Slate since 2004 and wrote the "Today's Papers" column from 2006 to 2009. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoliti.

TODAY IN SLATE

Sports Nut

Grandmaster Clash

One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.

The Extraordinary Amicus Brief That Attempts to Explain the Wu-Tang Clan to the Supreme Court Justices

Amazon Is Officially a Gadget Company. Here Are Its Six New Devices.

Do the Celebrities Whose Nude Photos Were Stolen Have a Case Against Apple?

The NFL Explains How It Sees “the Role of the Female”

Future Tense

Amazon Is Now a Gadget Company

Food

How to Order Chinese Food

First, stop thinking of it as “Chinese food.”

Scotland Is Inspiring Secessionists Across America

The Country Where Women Aren’t Allowed to Work Once They’re 36 Weeks’ Pregnant

The XX Factor
Sept. 18 2014 11:40 AM The Country Where Women Aren’t Allowed to Work Once They’re 36 Weeks’ Pregnant
Moneybox
Sept. 17 2014 5:10 PM The Most Awkward Scenario in Which a Man Can Hold a Door for a Woman
  News & Politics
Weigel
Sept. 18 2014 3:19 PM In Defense of Congress Leaving Town Without a New War Vote
  Business
Business Insider
Sept. 18 2014 3:31 PM What Europe Would Look Like If All the Separatist Movements Got Their Way
  Life
Outward
Sept. 18 2014 4:15 PM Reactions to a Sketch of Chelsea Manning Reveal Transmisogyny
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 18 2014 3:30 PM How Crisis Pregnancy Centers Trick Women
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Sept. 18 2014 1:23 PM “It’s Not Every Day That You Can Beat the World Champion” An exclusive interview with chess grandmaster Fabiano Caruana.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 18 2014 4:33 PM The Top 5 Dadsplaining Moments From The Cosby Show
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 18 2014 4:26 PM Global Oceans Break All-Time Heat Record; World on Pace for Warmest Year Ever
  Health & Science
Science
Sept. 18 2014 3:35 PM Do People Still Die of Rabies? And how do you know if an animal is rabid?
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.