North Korea: Can Kim's ICBMs Re-Enter The Atmosphere? Why Does It Matter?

South Korea's intelligence agency does not believe North Korea has secured re-entry capabilities for its intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) program, a South Korean lawmaker said on Tuesday, disputing Pyongyang's account.

North Korea launched what was said to be a nuclear-capable ICBM last week as it presses on with its nuclear and missile programs in defiance of United Nations sanctions.

Pyongyang's state media said last week's test successfully verified the atmospheric re-entry of the warhead loaded on the test-launched missile, which experts say may be able to reach the U.S. state of Alaska.

However, Yi Wan-young, who is also a member of South Korean parliament's intelligence committee, told reporters during a televised briefing that South Korea's National Intelligence Service has not been able to confirm that re-entry was successful.

"Considering how North Korea does not have any testing facilities (for re-entry technology), the agency believes (North Korea) has not yet secured that technology," he said.

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North Korean leader Kim Jong Un looks on during the test-launch of the intercontinental ballistic missile Hwasong-14 in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang July 5, 2017. KCNA/via REUTERS

Yi said the agency believed the missile launched last week was a modified version of the KN-17 intermediate range missile that was tested in May.

He also said the agency had not detected any unusual activity at North Korea's Punggye-ri nuclear test site.

North Korea has conducted several nuclear missile tests, but the greatest challenge has been for North Korea to make a nuclear warhead to fit on an ICBM. Last week, they said they had achieved this, but it has never been independently verified.