Mis­sile wars: Where NK stands after ICBM launch

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is on the cusp of hav­ing some­thing his fa­ther and grand­fa­ther could only dream of - the abil­ity to un­leash a nu­clear at­tack on the United States. For any­one pay­ing at­ten­tion, the test launch of his coun­try’s first in­ter­con­ti­nen­tal bal­lis­tic mis­sile on the Fourth of July came as lit­tle sur­prise. He has been rac­ing to de­velop bet­ter and longer-range mis­siles and vowed this would be the year of the ICBM in his an­nual New Year’s ad­dress. He made good on that vow with the launch of the “Hwa­song14.” But that isn’t all he’s been do­ing. Here’s a quick primer.

Clos­ing the gap

North Korea’s new­est mis­sile is called the Hwa­song-14. Hwa­song means “Mars.” Ex­perts be­lieve the two-stage, liq­uid-fuel mis­sile gives Kim the ca­pa­bil­ity of reach­ing most of Alaska and pos­si­bly Hawaii. Some ex­perts add Seat­tle and San Fran­cisco. North Korea’s mis­siles aren’t very ac­cu­rate, so big, soft tar­gets like cities are what they would be aimed at.Big caveat: Kim’s tech­ni­cians still have a lot of work to do. It’s not clear if this mis­sile could be scaled up to reach tar­gets be­yond Alaska, like New York or Wash­ing­ton. Re­li­a­bil­ity is also a big is­sue that re­quires years of test­ing to re­solve. And that liq­uid fuel makes the mis­sile a sit­ting duck while it’s be­ing read­ied for launch.

Di­ver­si­fy­ing the ar­se­nal

Along with a record num­ber of tests, 17 this year alone, Kim has re­vealed a sur­pris­ing ar­ray of mis­siles - Har­poon-style an­ti­ship mis­siles, beefed up Scuds, sub­marinelaunched bal­lis­tic mis­siles and mis­siles that use solid fuel, which makes them eas­ier to hide and harder to de­stroy. David Wright, with the Union of Con­cerned Sci­en­tists, said height­ened ac­tiv­ity over the past 18 months sug­gests Kim de­cided a cou­ple of years ago to speed up and di­ver­sify. The take­away: North Korea is well on its way to­ward a fine-tuned ar­se­nal of mis­siles that can strike South Korea, Ja­pan and the United States.

Push­ing the en­ve­lope:

What’s next? More sanctions, al­most cer­tainly. US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump claimed “se­vere things” could be in the off­ing. The US has cir­cu­lated a new list of sanctions in the UN Se­cu­rity Coun­cil and UN Am­bas­sador Nikki Ha­ley put the world, and espe­cially China, “on no­tice” if it doesn’t toe Wash­ing­ton’s line. China, North Korea’s eco­nomic life­line, has re­duced its im­ports from the North, in­clud­ing a cut­off of coal pur­chases.

It ap­pears to still be sell­ing lots of goods to North Korea, which may anger some sanctions ad­vo­cates but gen­er­ates a huge trade deficit that could spell desta­bi­liz­ing in­fla­tion for the North if left unchecked. North Korea, mean­while, needs to im­prove its nu­clear war­head tech­nol­ogy. Its Pung­gye-ri un­der­ground nu­clear test site has been on standby for months. So a test is fairly likely. And there will be more launches. As Kim put it, ex­pect lots more “gift pack­ages, big and small” for Wash­ing­ton.—AP

NORTH KOREA: This file photo, dis­trib­uted by the North Korean gov­ern­ment shows what was said to be the launch of a Hwa­song14 in­ter­con­ti­nen­tal bal­lis­tic mis­sile (ICBM) in North Korea’s north­west. —AP

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