North Korea's claims that it successfully launched its first intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) Tuesday are the latest instance of political posturing to emerge from President Kim Jong-Un's totalitarian regime, but they also bring the likelihood of an attack on the U.S. squarely into focus.
Though most experts agree that the closed state does not yet have long-range nuclear weapon capabilities, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Tuesday that the launch indicated a "new escalation of the threat" and analysts see the country's military advancement gaining pace.
Tuesday's tactically timed Independence Day launch is in many ways a minor step forward from a similar test in May, the latest in a series of provocations. The new Hwasong-14 rocket added approximately eight minutes of flight time, or a further 90 miles in overall distance, to its predecessor.
However, the new model is now thought to bring Alaska into range.
This step could significantly increase North Korea's ability of targeting the U.S.'s 48 mainland states – and the timeframe in which it does – according to Jonathan Wood, director, global risk advisory at Control Risks.
"This launch brings forward, or accelerates the timeframe, in which North Korea was expected to develop a longer-range intercontinental capability from perhaps maybe 5-10 years to within 5 years," Wood told CNBC Wednesday.