These striking photos capture the major missile launches North Korea has conducted in 2017

North Koreans watch a news report showing North Korea's Hwasong-12 intermediate-range ballistic missile launch on electronic screen at Pyongyang station in Pyongyang, North Korea.

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North Koreans watch a news report showing North Korea’s Hwasong-12 intermediate-range ballistic missile launch on electronic screen at Pyongyang station in Pyongyang, North Korea.
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Kyodo/Reuters

North Korea launched an intercontinental ballistic missile towards Japan early Wednesday morning. The missile reached an altitude of about 2,800 miles, with initial estimates saying it will be the highest altitude reached by a North Korean missile.

In the last two decades, North Korea has launched more than 40 missiles in major provocations, with around 30 in the last two years alone.

Beginning in 1976, North Korea began developing missiles using Scud-B from the Soviet Union and launchpads from Egypt. Through the 1980’s and 1990’s, it began testing additional missiles, like the Rodong in 1990, and the Nodong-1 missile in 1993.

North Korea launched its first ballistic missile, the Unha-1 rocket, in 1998, and has since made significant advances both with nuclear warheads and with ballistic missiles.

There have been more than a dozen ballistic missile tests in 2017 so far, and here’s what we know about each of them:


February 12: North Korea successfully tested a Pukguksong-2, missile, a new intermediate-range missile.

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The scene of the intermediate-range ballistic missile Pukguksong-2’s launch test
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Thomson Reuters

It was the first missile launched into the Sea of Japan since US President Donald Trump took office. General John Hyten, the commander of US Strategic Command, said this launch marked a significant advancement for North Korea.

North Korea names its missiles Pukguksong when they’re meant to fire from submarines, and Hwasong when they’re meant to fire from ground launchers.


March 6: Four ballistic missiles were fired from the North Pyongan province, near China’s border.

The tested missiles flew 620 miles (1,000 kilometers) before landing in the Sea of Japan. The US also began installing the a missile defense system (THAAD) in South Korea as protection against missile attack from the North.


March 22: North Korea tested a mobile-launched missile that exploded within minutes of taking off.

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North Korean leader Kim Jong Un supervised a ballistic rocket launching drill of Hwasong artillery units of the Strategic Force of the KPA on the spot in this undated photo.
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KCNA/via REUTERS

The type of missile launched was not confirmed. The launch signaled increasing frequency of North Korean missile testing.


April 5: A ballistic missile was fired ahead of a summit between US President Donald Trump and China’s President Xi Jinping in Florida.

Discussing North Korea’s weapons programs was high priority for the leaders’ meeting, raising speculation that the launch might have been timed to get their attention.


April 15: North Korea launched a KN-17 intermediate range missile that exploded shortly after launch.

The failed launch coincided with a massive military parade to commemorate the 105th birth anniversary of Kim Il-sung, the country’s founder and grandfather of current leader, Kim Jong-un.


May 13: An intermediate range Hwasong-12 ballistic missile lands in the sea near Russia.

Japanese Defense Minister Tomomi Inada said at the time that the missile could be a new type. It flew for 30 minutes before dropping into the sea.


May 21: North Korea fires the Pukguksong-2 missile, which flew for 300 miles (500 kilometers).

The day before the missile launch, North Korea said it had developed the capability to use nuclear-tipped missiles to strike the US mainland, although Western missile experts said at the time that the claim was exaggerated.


May 29: A short range Scud-class ballistic missile was fired and flew about 280 miles (450 kilometers).

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People watch a television broadcasting a news report on North Korea firing what appeared to be a short-range ballistic missile, at a railway station in Seoul, South Korea, May 29, 2017.
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REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji

North Korea has a large stockpile of the short-range missiles, originally developed by the Soviet Union.


June 8: North Korea test-fires four anti-ship missiles, making it the fourth missile test in a month.

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North Korean leader Kim Jong Un reacts after doing a test-fire of new cruise rocket in this undated photo released by North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) May 30, 2017.
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KCNA/via REUTERS

“We assess that North Korea intended to show off its various missile capabilities,” Roh Jae-cheon, a spokesman for South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staffs said.


July 4: Kim Jong Un celebrated the country’s first launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile.

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Army personnel and people gather at Kim Il Sung Square in Pyongyang July 6, 2017 to celebrate the successful test-launch of intercontinental ballistic rocket Hwasong-14 on July 4, 2017.
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KCNA/via REUTERS

North Korea has a history of conducting weapons test on or around July 4, America’s Independence Day. Kim said the US would be “displeased” to receive a “package of gifts” on Independence Day.


July 28: North Korea launched a second ICBM, called the Hwasong-14, that Kim said demonstrated his country can hit the US mainland.

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Intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) Hwasong-14 is pictured during its second test-fire in this undated picture provided by KCNA in Pyongyang on July 29, 2017.
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KCNA via Reuters

North Korean media said that Kim expressed “great satisfaction” following the launch, and said the missile is capable of delivering “a large-sized, heavy nuclear warhead.”


August 26: North Korea fired three short-range ballistic missiles amid US-South Korea joint military exercises.

A day before the exercises, Pyongyang warned the US was risking an “uncontrollable phase of a nuclear war.”


August 29: North Korea sent a missile over Japan’s Hokkaido region, causing panic.

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Local residents take part in an emergency drill in the wake of repeated missile launches by North Korea, in Japan’s northernmost main island of Hokkaido.
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Kyodo/via REUTERS

The missile was thought to be the first nuclear-weapon capable ballistic missile the North has ever sent over Japan.


September 15: An intermediate-range ballistic missile was fired over Japan, marking the first launch since the UN imposed fresh sanctions on North Korea.

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North Korean leader Kim Jong Un watches the launch of a Hwasong-12 missile in this undated photo released by North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on September 16, 2017
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KCNA via REUTERS

The day before, North Korea threatened to sink Japan and turn the US to “ashes and darkness” because of the two countries spearheading of the imposed sanctions.


November 29: North Korea fired an intercontinental ballistic missile that traveled about 1,000 kilometers, or over 620 miles, and landed in the Sea of Japan.

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A view of the newly developed intercontinental ballistic rocket Hwasong-15 test that was successfully launched on November 29, 2017.
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REUTERS/KCNA

The missile reached an altitude of about 2,800 miles, and early estimated say it could be highest altitude reached by the country’s missile program so far.