- North Korea’s regime has pronounced its latest ballistic missile test to be a success.
- It has alleged that its newly tested missile can deliver a “heavy nuclear warhead” to the US mainland.
- North Korean leader Kim, who watched the test, has warned the US not to underestimate its retaliatory capacity.
- South Korean officials have warned North Korea that it itself might be prone to miscalculation in the present international situation.
The regime of North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un has declared that its newly tested mid-to-long-range ballistic missile that can carry a nuclear warhead to the US mainland.
On Sunday, North Korea carried out a new successful ballistic missile test in defiance of the US, South Korea and Japan, and even of its ally China.
According to initial analyses, the rocket was probably an intermediate-range ballistic missile (IRBM), not an intercontinental one (ICBM), and may be capable of traveling a distance of 4,000-6,000 km (2,500 – 3,700 miles).
In its previous missile launch at the end of April, North Korea’s regime suffered a second failure in a row with its latest ballistic missile test attempt amid continuing tensions with the US and South Korea.
North Korea has now carried out three failed and four successful rocket launches since the start of the Trump Administration.
US troops in South Korea began the the installation the THAAD (Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, formerly known as Theater High Altitude Area Defense) last week, a day after the North Korean regime celebrated the 85th anniversary since the founding of its military with massive live-fire drills with conventional weapons.
Even though plans for the US missile defense system on the Korean Peninsula have been slammed by China and Russia which deem it detrimental to their security, Chinese state media and North Korea’s official news agency have recently been engaged in a war of words.
They have been exchanging accusations and criticism, after earlier North Korea lashed out against the country’s major ally China following Chinese criticism of the North Korean nuclear program saying that North Korean nuclear tests pose a threat to China’s national interests.
China has also officially urged the US and South Korea to stop the deployment of the THAAD missile shield.
Ongoing activity and a large number of people have been spotted at North Korea’s nuclear test site, the Punggye-ri Nuclear Test Facility, amid lingering concerns that the regime of leader Kim Jong-un could carry out its sixth nuclear test.
The latest missile firing by Kim Jong-un’s regime comes shortly after the election of South Korea’s new President, liberal Moon Jae-in, who favors engagement with North Korea rather than a harsher stance.
North Korea has also recently been arresting American college professors teaching in Pyongyang.
North Korea’s latest rocket test occurred against the backdrop of a global Silk Road summit happening in China’s capital Beijing.
“Large-size Heavy Nuclear Warhead”
North Korea said on Monday it had successfully tested-fired a new mid-to-long-range ballistic missile that can carry a nuclear warhead, and claimed that the US mainland is within its striking range, South Korean news agency Yonhap reported.
North Korea said that a “large-size heavy nuclear warhead” can fit on its new missile, and threatened to to launch a nuclear-tipped intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) capable of hitting the United States.
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un observed the launch of the rocket, called the Hwasong-12, on Sunday, according to North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).
North Korea fired the missile from a site northwest of Pyongyang, according to South Korea’s military. The launch is seen as the regime’s first provocation since South Korea’s new President Moon Jae-in took office last Wednesday.
The KCNA said that the missile reached a maximum altitude of 2,111.5 km in an indication that it was a new type of intermediate-range ballistic missile (IRBM).
The rocket flew 787 km before falling into the Sea of Japan, it added.
“The test-fire aimed at verifying the tactical and technological specifications of the newly developed ballistic rocket capable of carrying a large-size heavy nuclear warhead,” the KCNA said in an English-language report.
North Korean leader Kim is said to have warned the US not to misjudge the reality that its mainland and operations in the Pacific region are in North Korea’s “sighting range for a strike and that it has all-powerful means for a retaliatory strike.”
‘Yet to Master the Technology’
Yonhap points out that if North Korea’s claim is confirmed, the move marks a technical advance in its development of an ICBM.
In his New Year’s message, North Korea’s leader said that the country had entered the final stage of preparing to launch an ICBM.
South Korea’s military said more information is needed to verify the technical aspects of the missile.
However, it added that Pyongyang seems to have yet to master missile technology for “atmospheric reentry,” a key element in developing an ICBM.
“The missile may have a maximum range capable of reaching Alaska and Hawaii if it is fired at a standard angle,” said Kim Dong-yub, a professor at the Institute for Far Eastern Studies in Kyungnam University.
Photos released by North Korean media showed that it looked like a missile unveiled at a military parade in April to mark the 105th birthday of late founder Kim Il-sung, experts said.
Footage aired by the state TV station showed that it was launched on what appeared to be a makeshift firing stand after being moved on a transport erector launcher (TEL), a move seen as aiming at avoiding damage due to possible failure.
North Korea’s Possible Miscalculation
South Korea’s Unification Ministry warned that North Korea should not miscalculate the situation.
“[The international community] has the shared view that North Korea’s nuclear and missile provocations pose a grave threat to peace and security in the region and beyond the peninsula,” Lee Duk-haeng, ministry spokesman, told a regular press briefing.
Lee declined to give the South Korean government’s assessment of North Korea’s intention, stating the need to take into account factors related to inter-Korean relations, including possible dialogue.
Experts said that the launch appeared aimed at testing South Korea’s new President, Moon Jae-in, who has vowed to seek the dual-track approach of pushing for denuclearization and dialogue with Pyongyang.
Moon is widely expected to seek engagement with North Korea to improve long-strained ties, but Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile programs are limiting his leeway for reconciliatory policies.
On Sunday, Moon said that his administration would deal resolutely with North Korea’s provocations in a bid to ensure that Pyongyang would not “miscalculate” the situation.