North Korea fired a ballistic missile, the first such test since U.S. President Donald Trump was elected, and his administration indicated that Washington would have a calibrated response to avoid escalating tensions.
The test was likely to have been of an intermediate-range Musudan-class missile that landed in the Sea of Japan, according to South Korea’s military, not an Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM), which the North has said it could test at any time. A South Korean military source said the missile reached an altitude of about 550 km.
While Seoul initially said the missile was probably a medium-range Rodong, it later said the launch was likely of a Musudan, which is designed to fly up to 3,000-4,000 km. The North attempted eight Musudan launches last year. Only one of those launches — of a missile that flew 400 km in June — was considered a success by officials and experts in South Korea and the United States.
A Ballistic Missile is a missile that follows a ballistic trajectory with the objective of delivering one or more warheads to a predetermined target. A ballistic missile is only guided during relatively brief periods of flight (there are unguided ballistic missiles as well, such as 9K52 Luna-M, although these may well be considered rockets), and most of its trajectory is unpowered and governed by gravity and air resistance if in the atmosphere.
This contrasts to a cruise missile, which is aerodynamically guided in powered flight. Long range intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM) are launched on a sub-orbital flight trajectory and spend most of their flight out of the atmosphere. Shorter range ballistic missiles stay within the Earth's atmosphere.