North Korea fires mis­sile over Ja­pan, demon­strat­ing new might

Miami Herald - - FRONT PAGE -

Af­ter Py­ongyang launched it without warn­ing, the Ja­panese gov­ern­ment sent a text alert to its peo­ple, ad­vis­ing them to take pro­tec­tive cover in case the test went wrong.

North Korea rat­tled the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion last month by launch­ing two in­ter­con­ti­nen­tal bal­lis­tic mis­siles, the sec­ond of which demon­strated the po­ten­tial to reach the con­tigu­ous United States. But of­fi­cials and an­a­lysts doubted that the coun­try had mas­tered the tech­nol­ogy needed to pro­tect a nu­clear war­head from in­tense heat and fric­tion as it re-en­tered the at­mos­phere from space.

Tues­day’s test might have been most im­por­tant for the de­vel­op­ment of more de­pend­able in­ter­me­di­ate-range mis­siles. But ex­perts say it could also pro­vide in­for­ma­tion for the cru­cial re-en­try tech­nol­ogy needed for a war­head on an in­ter­me­di­at­erange mis­sile to sur­vive the fiery plunge back into the earth’s at­mos­phere.

It is less clear if that in­for­ma­tion could help the North pur­sue the es­pe­cially dif­fi­cult goal of de­vel­op­ing the reen­try tech­nol­ogy needed to build a nu­cle­artipped longer-range mis­sile that could hit the main­land United States. Those war­heads would re-en­ter more quickly, pro­duc­ing much higher heats.

Ja­pan said it did not try to shoot the mis­sile down be­cause it did not de­tect a threat to its ter­ri­tory. But an­a­lysts said the test nev­er­the­less un­der­scored some un­com­fort­able ques­tions about the pos­si­bil­ity of de­fend­ing against such mis­siles.

The al­lies could do little more than track the mis­sile Tues­day as it arched over Hokkaido and splashed into the north­ern Pa­cific. An­a­lysts said Ja­pan could have tried to shoot it down if its Aegis de­stroy­ers, which are armed with SM3 Block I in­ter­cep­tor mis­siles, hap­pened to be in wa­ters be­tween North Korea and Ja­pan. But be­cause the SM3 is slower than the Hwa­song-12, they would have had to make the at­tempt be­fore the mis­sile passed over the ships.

And one an­a­lyst noted that Ja­pan could have been caught off guard en­tirely had the de­stroy­ers been else­where — for ex­am­ple, if Ja­pan had or­dered them south in re­sponse to North Korea’s threat to fire mis­siles into the wa­ters around Guam.

“Af­ter dis­tract­ing at­ten­tion to­ward Guam, North Korea fired the mis­sile over Ja­pan,” said Shin Jong-woo, a de­fense an­a­lyst at Korea De­fense Fo­rum, a Seoul-based net­work of mil­i­tary ex­perts. “By do­ing so, it re­duced the chance of its mis­sile be­ing shot down, and at the same time demon­strated its abil­ity to hit a tar­get as far away as Guam without ac­tu­ally launch­ing the mis­sile in its di­rec­tion.”

South Korea’s pres­i­dent, Moon Jae-in, re­sponded to the launch by or­der­ing his mil­i­tary to “demon­strate a strong re­tal­ia­tory ca­pa­bil­ity against North Korea.” Four F-15K fighter jets soon dropped two bombs each at a do­mes­tic bomb­ing range. The coun­try’s air force called it a re­hearsal of its ca­pac­ity to “de­stroy the en­emy lead­er­ship” in the event of war.

South Korea also re­leased video footage show­ing test launches of its two new­est bal­lis­tic mis­siles, com­po­nents of its so-called “Kill Chain” pro­gram de­signed to de­stroy key North Korean tar­gets. The tests were con­ducted on Thurs­day, but the mil­i­tary had not pre­vi­ously con­firmed that they took place.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.