North Korea conducted yet another ballistic missile test on Friday, but this one may have been the most ominous yet.  The North Korean Hwasong-14 missile, which derives its name from the Korean word for Mars, reached a peak altitude of 2,314.5 miles and remained airborne for a whopping 47 minutes and 12 seconds before ultimately splashing down into the sea between North Korea and Japan some 620 miles or so from its launch pad.

Experts agree that this is yet another improvement over previous tests, the most recent of which indicated North Korea had the capability to strike U.S. targets as far away as Alaska.

Friday’s test demonstrated a successful stage separation, as well as the reliability of the missile’s control and guidance systems during reentry.  While the brutal conditions the missile experienced during reentry may be even worse on a longer range trajectory, observations by U.S., Japanese and South Korean officials all seem to indicate that this missile is indeed an ICBM class ballistic missile – putting to bed any doubts that have been levied in the weeks since their last demonstration.

Demonstration being the operative term.  While there are clear benefits to these tests from a development standpoint, North Korea’s missiles named after the planet the Romans made their God of War, may one day deliver nuclear warheads to target zones as far away as the U.S. mainland, this weekend its primary payload was a message to the United States and its allies: North Korea will not be deterred in its pursuit of a weapons platform that can actually start a nuclear war with the U.S.