There were eight Americans on board Ripley’s flight to Pyongyang. The US ban
on American citizens traveling to North Korea takes effect September 1.
At the time of the tests, North Korean state media showed leader Kim Jong Un overseeing a special forces operation which simulated strikes on South Korean islands, Ripley said.
“This is the most tense I’ve ever seen [it],” a North Korean official told Ripley. “The situation could escalate at any moment.”
Just last week, Tillerson attempted to dial down tensions by noting there had been no missile tests or “provocative acts” from North Korea since a United Nations Security Council resolution sanctioning Pyongyang was passed earlier this month.
Tillerson called North Korea’s “restraint” pleasing and said it could open a pathway for dialogue in the near future.
Analysts said the photos were a sign from North Korea to the world, to show their solid fuel missile program is improving at a steady rate.
Solid fuel missiles are faster and easier to deploy, and harder to catch before they launch because there’s a lot less to be done in terms of launch preparation. All US and Russian ballistic missiles are solid-fuel models.
A series of tests
Throughout the year, North Korea has conducted a series of ballistic missile tests.
It has fired more than 20 missiles since February, further perfecting its technology with each launch. In July, it launched an intercontinental ballistic missile, which North Korea claims could reach “anywhere in the world.”
Earlier this month, President Donald Trump issued an extraordinary ultimatum to North Korea, warning Pyongyang not to make any more threats against the US or it will “face fire and fury like the world has never seen.”
quickly tried to allay fears of a military confrontation, saying there was no sign the threat level from North Korea had changed and that Americans should “sleep well at night.”
In a conciliatory move before that, Tillerson said the US was willing to sit down for talks with North Korea, but only if it relinquishes its pursuit of nuclear weapons.