North Korean state television reported claims that the country had launched a missile that could be launched to any target in the world. In a test reportedly overseen by Kim Jong-un, the projectile reportedly flew up to 1,731 miles and flew a distance of approximately 579 miles for approximately 40 minutes before landing in the sea. The country’s state television called its landing in the sea a designated target.
The broadcast took the occasion to claim that North Korea was now officially “a full-fledged nuclear power that has been possessed of the most powerful intercontinental ballistic rocket capable of hitting any part of the world.”
Global leaders and experts claim that North Korea cannot yet aim these missiles to a specific target and that they do not yet have the capability of shrinking a nuclear warhead to the size necessary for transport on one of these missiles.
Some experts, reporting to the BBC, stated that, if these reports from North Korea are correct, the missile could be capable of reaching Alaska. It would not, however, be capable of reaching the other contiguous states or Hawaii.
The ability to actually launch a nuclear capable missile also requires the ability to preserve a warhead after the projectile reenters the atmosphere, which BBC’s expert believes North Korea cannot yet do.
It is important to note that the missile was launched during 4th of July celebrations in the US and that it does have the travel range to reach at least one US State. It is also notable, as in not to be taken lightly, that they have reached intercontinental ballistic ranges and continue to produce and test these projectiles despite intense pressure from the outside world.
After this latest launch, South Korea has called on the UN’s Security Council to put official pressure on North Korea. Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe stated that his country would work with the US and South Korea to add to the pressure on North Korea.
Donald Trump made statements on Twitter Monday about the launch, mentioning Japan and South Korea as well as China.
The BBC reports that China as well as Russia, who both share borders with the isolated, authoritarian Korea, have called for the country to “freeze” its missile programs as well as its nuclear programs. Additionally, however, Russia and China are calling for the US to discontinue their anti-missile technology use; the program known as Thaad is reportedly capable of intercepting or discontinuing a missile and is allegedly being used from Pyongyang, South Korea.
The US has systems in place to defend the physical nation in case of such an attack, though experts disagree on that system’s capabilities and reliability. There are detectors that are allegedly capable of detecting an incoming missile and there are interceptor missiles that are supposed to be able to “intercept” incoming missiles by colliding with them mid-air, before they can reach their intended target. There are reportedly new, updated versions of these interceptors in development, but it is unclear whether they are on schedule to keep up with the unpredictable North Korean development and growing threat.
It is unlikely that the US system is completely foolproof when it comes to defending against a missile attack, especially if a country possesses a large number of missiles that it launches simultaneously. It is, therefore, likely that the Thaad system will continue, if it is being used, for now; there is also the possibility of deploying interceptor missiles from the US’s strongest, nearest ally, South Korea.
These events come ahead of Donald Trump’s second visit abroad; he leaves for Europe Wednesday and is already making headlines for his scheduled visit with Russian leader, Vladimir Putin. Putin, of course, is said to be behind the Russian infiltration fo the 2016 election which had a huge hand in electing Donald Trump.
Trump has yet to speak out against the unpopular and inhumane practices of Putin and his government, including the aforementioned hacking, casting further suspicion onto his involvement or even his disapproval of the Russians’ activities.
Russia and China both seem to despise Thaad–Terminal High Altitude Area Defense–the anti-missile system Trump inherited from the Obama Administration. Some South Korean citizens also disapprove, reportedly. There are various theories and reports as to why China and Russia in particular are so opposed to the anti-missile technology. The program is a missile-interception program, but it does not use an intercepting missile; rather, it relies on kinetic energy which is reportedly used because it minimizes the potential that a warhead will explode in the process of its carrier missile being intercepted.
It was developed by Lockheed Martin and installed in South Korea, reportedly, in March. It is a part of a system that has been in development and deployment since the early 90s and which, therefore, has evolved with technology. Its use of digital tracking is perhaps most worrisome to countries like Russia who are now infamously partial to digital and virtual warfare. Being deployed in South Korea, and therefore close to China and Russia, it also poses a threat to the autonomy of those countries as well as their own potential missile or nuclear technologies, though that is pure assumption.
Outwardly, Russia in particular has called the Thaad’s system a threat to the state of things in the area, likely indicating that Russia views it as an offensive war move rather than a purely defensive one. It is likely, if this is the case, that North Korea and other countries which tend to be more hostile toward the US than friendly feel the same way.
It is particularly pressing for Russia in a time when much of the world is not looking on its global election interference and cyber warfare approvingly and the country continues to become further isolated through sanctions, et cetera. It has long harbored desires to become a world-power and continues to harbor resentments, particularly toward the US, for having been stymied in those efforts.