North Korea’s missile launch is a major escalation
Kim Jong-un's nuclear ambitions are gathering pace
Last year’s record-breaking number of North Korean missile launches — over 70 — now seems less astonishing. This morning’s launch of a long-range missile, deemed by the United States and Japan to be an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), marks the North’s 27th exercise this year.
Earlier today, there was brief panic in Hokkaido, Japan’s northernmost island, as residents were told to shelter and evacuate. The missile eventually landed in the usual location of Pyongyang’s missiles, namely the East Sea/Sea of Japan, falling into Japan’s exclusive economic zone. It was just last October that North Korea launched an intermediate-range missile which, to the surprise of many, flew over Japanese territory. To say that the hermit kingdom’s capabilities are developing is no understatement.
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The perennial question remains just what motivates the cash-strapped North Korean regime to conduct such launches. The answer is an unholy trinity of deterrence, domestic propagandistic value, and Kim Jong-un’s determined quest for his state to gain international recognition as a nuclear-armed power. The latter requires the launching of new missile and nuclear capabilities, both for officials to ascertain whether these systems function as intended, and to show the world that denuclearisation is little more than a fantasy. Underpinning all these explanations is the Kim regime’s ultimate priority, ever since the establishment of the country in 1948: to maintain its survival no matter the cost on the human security of its people.
Yet it is naive simply to dismiss today’s launch as just another addition to a long list of past — and future — missile launches. North Korea is increasing the technological sophistication and range of its missile capabilities, and the acceleration of this process is far from surprising.
Only two years ago, at the Eighth Congress of the ruling Workers’ Party of Korea, Kim Jong-un outlined a pledge to expand his country’s arsenal by developing tactical nuclear weapons, military reconnaissance satellites, and solid-propellant ICBMs. The sheer lack of information about North Korea’s nuclear programme and decision-making, and the inability to obtain reliable information from the closed country cannot be underestimated. Yet we must also remember that North Korea does not make decisions in isolation.
Now is an ideal time to conduct such launches. Beyond the rapprochement between Moscow, Beijing, and Pyongyang fuelled by Russia’s war in Ukraine, recent joint military exercises held between the United States and South Korea were fiercely denounced by the North. On the Korean Peninsula, relations have reached a remarkable low. In what appears to be an act of dissent against the alliance between the South and the United States, North Korea has refused to answer the inter-Korean hotline for over a week.
Domestically, provocations are also expected at this time of year. Saturday marks the most important date of the North Korean calendar: the birthday of the founding father of the country, Kim Il-sung, which has traditionally served as an opportunity for parades and celebrations to display the latest advancements in weaponry.
As the North Korean economy delves deeper into crisis — a cost borne by its people — Kim Jong-un will want to consolidate his own power and ensure that popular loyalty to his regime is maintained. Crucially, however, North Korea is in his view a nuclear state. He wants the world to recognise it as such.
Would anyone really care or even react if a U.S. Navy Ohio class sub ‘took out’ North Korea tomorrow?
I don’t think so, and it would certainly “encourage the others”*would it not?
Depends on which way the wind is blowing and the EMP damage to the surrounding countries’ infrastructure. China would not be at all amused.
Or china could attack Taiwan while north Korea are causing carnage elsewhere. This is why we should all calm down.
Not if they are ‘air bursts’.
An “aiirburst” nuke can cause almost complete electrical and electronic destruction of infra – structure with, for major items, a 2-year lead-time and that’s assuming the ‘factory’ escapes destruction
Oh jolly good. Im not sure that makes me feel better about the whole thing.
It reduces the radiation to an absolute minimum, whilst also ensuring maximum blast damage.
Jesus, I’m glad I don’t live over there, I’ve read about thermobaric weapons too, big blast no radiation, what will be will be though, I think we nearly are past the point of sorting this out nicely like grown ups anyway. Third time lucky.
We might have some very impressive ‘sunsets’ for a few years afterwards, if we are lucky!
A sentiment many could share if it could just target KJ-u and his immediate cabal. But to also then kill millions of desperately poor and suppressed N Koreans – no.
Interestingly one of reasons JFK didn’t hit missile sites in Cuba in 62 was US memory of the ‘day that will live in infamy’ and the desire never to commit such an act and diminish the US in the process. A response, yes. A first strike, no.
One day we are going to have to confront this excuse of a nation state. Everything else has failed.
The sooner the better
America has still not declared an end to the Korean War. It has persisted all this time in maintaining a high threat posture. Whatever else he may be, unlike our American Perpetual War Neocons, Kim is not stupid. His rush to arm, his frequent demonstrations of destructive capability–these are defensive gestures. The rattler hisses when approached. The Musk Oxen form a butt to butt circle for defense. Kim launches missiles. Our inability to welcome N Korea into the world not only harms its people, but also harms our prospects for a better world. Uh, unless you are a defense contractor or a Biden who sees threat manufacture as a ticket to power and money.
So, is North Korea barely electrified? Or does it have nuclear weapons? Those two things cannot both be true. And do you know what a nuclear missile launched from the Korean Peninsula cannot do? It cannot hit the British Isles. Nor does anyone in North Korea have any reason to wish for it to do so. Unless, of course, we were to give them such a reason.
Of course it can be true. They can have power to the nuclear sites, while happily letting the bulk of the population starve
If NK can put a satellite into orbit they can nuke the British Isles. We (Brits) are, in theory, still at war with NK because there is no Peace Document, only a Cease Fire Agreement. Even if ‘small’ nuke missed the UK it could cause a lot of (EMP) damage to us and our neighbours. The warped minds in charge of NK have no conscience about collateral damage. (Do “We”).
It’s the UK and US who are the danger to the world
Unlike the US, North Korea have never nuked anyone
They could make quite a mess of Japan, if they were capable of retaliation after the first strike by the Ohio’s.
Do you not think they might have factored getting nuked by Americans into their plans?
Sadly no Ms Emery.
The north Koreans have been working on this for a long time though, I just think there’s a lot of people that have an axe to grind at the moment getting ready to grind it, I think maybe we should be careful not to underestimate that.
Really it’s a case of Chinese responsibility, not ours.
I have seen a few opinions saying the Chinese will do as please regardless, they may go for Taiwan anyway regardless of what the west says or does now, we will have to react and it will all be very exciting. Time will tell I suppose.
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