North Korea fires mis­sile over Ja­pan, demon­strat­ing new might

Miami Herald - - FRONT PAGE -

SEOUL — North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong Un, has au­tho­rized more than 80 mis­sile tests since tak­ing power al­most six years ago. But all of those mis­siles landed in nearby wa­ters be­cause they were of lim­ited range or fired at a sharp an­gle, high into space, so they would splash down without go­ing too far.

On Tues­day, the North aban­doned that re­straint, lob­bing an in­ter­me­di­ate-range bal­lis­tic mis­sile at a nor­mal an­gle and send­ing it over the Ja­panese is­land of Hokkaido, into a spot in the Western Pa­cific al­most 1,700 miles away. In do­ing so, Kim may have been try­ing to show that he can hit a far­away tar­get, for the first time do­ing a more re­al­is­tic test of the type of mis­sile he had threat­ened to use to strike near the U.S. ter­ri­tory of Guam.

“By lob­bing a mis­sile over Ja­pan, North Korea is show­ing that it was not an empty threat when it said it would launch mis­siles to­ward Guam,” said Chang Young-keun, a mis­sile ex­pert at Korea Aero­space Univer­sity near Seoul.

If that is the nat­u­ral next stage of the North’s mis­sile de­vel­op­ment pro­gram, the world may see more such tests. Be­cause of North Korea’s lo­ca­tion — squeezed be­tween China and South Korea, with Ja­pan to the east and south­east and Rus­sia to the north­east — there is es­sen­tially no way that the North can test mis­siles on such tra­jec­to­ries without fly­ing over an­other na­tion.

“If the pre­vi­ous launch­ings were for test­ing tech­nolo­gies, this one was a re­al­is­tic demon­stra­tion of an in­ter­me­di­ate-range bal­lis­tic mis­sile ca­pa­bil­ity,” Chang said. “In this test, the North’s mis­sile ac­tu­ally flew at a re­al­is­tic an­gle and tra­jec­tory.”

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump said in a state­ment Tues­day that North Korea had “sig­naled its con­tempt for its neigh­bors, for all mem­bers of the United Na­tions, and for min­i­mum stan­dards of ac­cept­able in­ter­na­tional be­hav­ior.”

He added, “Threat­en­ing and desta­bi­liz­ing ac­tions only in­crease the North Korean regime’s iso­la­tion in the re­gion and among all na­tions of the world. All op­tions are on the ta­ble.”

The North Korean mis­sile was widely be­lieved to be a Hwa­song-12, an in­ter­me­di­ate-range bal­lis­tic mis­sile that the North says is de­signed to carry a large nu­clear war­head.

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