Kim Jong Un has sped up North Korea’s nuclear program since he took power in late 2011, testing more powerful weapons and developing longer-range missiles to carry them.
On July 4, North Korea said it had successfully test-fired an intercontinental ballistic missile called the Hwasong-14, a claim that brings the isolated state closer to its aim of building a device capable of hitting the U.S. mainland with a nuclear warhead. The United Nations Security Council will hold an emergency meeting later Wednesday after the U.S. confirmed North Korea’s rocket launch was its first intercontinental ballistic missile.
Still, the launch risks a serious escalation with North Korea’s neighbors and the U.S. over its weapons program. The regime is thought to possess rockets that can hit South Korea and Japan with as many as 20 atomic bombs.