I’ve noticed several comments to the effect that North Korea’s latest missile launch traveled ‘less than 600 miles’, and is therefore not a threat to the USA. That’s completely wrong. The missile looks to have been intercontinental in range, as Stratfor’s analysis reveals.
At 9:10 a.m. local time on July 4, North Korea launched a new ballistic missile, the Hwasong-14, from the Panghyon Airport in North Pyongan Province. The Hwasong-14 was tested at a lofted, or steep, trajectory. This flight path maximizes the altitude of the missile and reduces its distance traveled in order to avoid overflying neighboring regions and countries such as Japan. Pyongyang further claimed that the Hwasong-14 missile was an Intercontinental Ballistic Missile — a statement that is thus far backed up by the available flight data.
The Hwasong-14 achieved the farthest distance traveled by a North Korean missile in tests so far. The previous longest shot occurred on May 14 with a test of the Hwasong-12. That missile reached an apogee of 2,111.5 kilometers (1312 miles) and a range of around 700 kilometers (435 miles) with a flight time of 30 minutes.
The July 4 Hwasong-14 flight characteristics show a clear improvement. According to the South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff, the missile landed more than 930 kilometers (578 miles) away from its launch point. According to the Japanese Ministry of Defense, the observed apogee of the missile greatly exceeded 2,500 kilometers. Finally, the United States Pacific Command reported that the flight time of the missile was 37 minutes. Given these flight details, the North Korean missile should technically be able to reach a distance of more than 6,000 kilometers (3,278 miles) on a standard trajectory.
Given that 5,500 kilometers is the minimum range for a missile to be classified as an Intercontinental Ballistic Missile, the North Korean claim that the latest test was an ICBM is substantiated by the missile’s flight data. The assumed range of the missile is about 6,000 to 6,500 kilometers, which would enable Pyongyang to reach all of Alaska, but would not yet give North Korea the ability to strike the Hawaiian Islands or the continental United States.
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With the White House already signaling its determination to prevent further North Korean progress, the July 4 Hwasong-14 missile test tilts an increasingly precarious regional balance.
There’s more at the link.
North Korea has already successfully tested ballistic missile re-entry vehicles, and has demonstrated its possession of nuclear weapons. If it develops this ICBM only a little further, it’ll be in a position to threaten the entire west coast of the USA. Given the unstable, xenophobic, insular regime in Pyongyang, that’s an intolerable threat . . . one that this country simply cannot tolerate. The question is, what to do about it? A conventional war on the Korean peninsula would devastate both North and South Korea, and probably draw in China and Russia as well, leading to a ‘hot war’ superpower confrontation that might not remain confined to the region. On the other hand, a surgical nuclear strike against North Korea’s missile and nuclear facilities would not take out its massive conventional forces, which would almost certainly launch an offensive against South Korea in response. President Trump has a real dilemma on his hands here.
I wonder whether that dilemma might not be behind the recent US decision to sell advanced weapons to Taiwan? The Chinese are incensed by it. Might it be a signal to them that if they won’t ‘play ball’ over North Korea, and use their influence to help resolve the situation there, they can’t expect the USA to ‘play ball’ with them over Taiwan – or, for that matter, over the disputed South China Sea islands, where a US Navy destroyer has just sailed?
Whatever’s going on behind the scenes, I expect action in or around North Korea within a matter of months. The danger from that unstable nation is too great to allow the situation to get any further out of hand.