Missile launching (illustration)
Missile launching (illustration)Thinkstock

The ICBM fired .by North Korea in the early hours of Wednesday morning could have reached all of the US mainland, a US official said.

The "Hwasong 15" missile was fired from a site near Pyongyang at approximately 3:17a.m. Wednesday morning local time. It reached an altitude of 4,475 km (2,780 miles) and traveled a distance of 950 km (600 miles) over a period of 53 minutes.

In a statement, North Korea claimed to be "a responsible nuclear power" and said its nuclear weapons were developed in order to provide protection from "the US imperialists’ nuclear blackmail policy and nuclear threat."

According to US scientists, if the missile had been fired at a lower trajectory, it could have reached Washington, D.C.

US Defense Minister Jim Mattis told reporters that the missile "went higher frankly than any previous shot they’ve taken, a research and development effort on their part to continue building ballistic missiles that can threaten everywhere in the world, basically."

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said in a statement that the international community "must take additional measures to enhance maritime security," including the right to redirect maritime traffic traveling towards North Korea.

Last week US President Donald Trump added North Korea to a list of countries supporting terrorism. In response, North Korea called Trump's decision a "serious provocation and violent infringement."

On today's firing, the US president said laconically: "We will take care of it."

According to a source in the US government, the missile launch was not a response to Trump but simply the latest step in North Korea's missile program.