Posted May. 16, 2017 07:23,
Updated May. 16, 2017 07:28
The missile that North Korea launched on Sunday is a new type of intermediate-range ballistic missile (IRBM) capable of striking Alaska, which experts say has gotten much closer to an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) in technological sophistication. On Sunday, North Korean media outlets touted the success of the strategic ballistic rocket Hwasong-12, reporting that the rocket peaked out at the altitude of 2,111.5 kilometers and precisely hit the targeted waters after flying 787 kilometers. Experts say that had the rocket been launched at a normal angle instead of in such steep trajectory, it would have flown 4,000 kilometers to 6,000 kilometers. While the South Korean military dismissed the possibility of the projectile being an ICBM or SLBM, citing that it flew a short range and was launched from ground, the rocket proved to be much stronger than expected.
The North has claimed that they can mount a large payload of a nuclear warhead on the Hwasong-12. Pyongyang also argued that the test verified the accuracy of the warhead’s detonation system in the face of such a harsh environment in re-entering the atmosphere, suggesting that Pyongyang made some progress in re-entry technology, the final stage for ICBM development. The South Korean military authorities say that the North has yet to fully secure the re-entry technology, citing the descending speed of the rocket, which ranged from Mach 15 to Mach 24, as it is slower than that of an ICBM (Mach 24 or faster). Considering that the maximum interception speed of KAMD is Mach 7 and that of THHAD also stops short at Mach 14, however, the recent successful rocket test suggests that South Korea is directly exposed to North Korea’s missile threat.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un claims that the mainland U.S. and the Pacific operation area are within our striking range, which is getting increasingly difficult to dismiss as a bluffing. Celebrating the “March 18 Revolution,” following the successful combustion test of a high-thrust rocket engine, Kim said, “The world will soon witness what historic significance this event would bear in the future.” Pyongyang used only one engine this time, but if multiple engines are combined, it could become a sufficient ICBM propellant. Furthermore, the possibility of North Korean missiles striking the mainland U.S. and the military bases in the Pacific area will also impede the process of deploying U.S. forces to the Korean Peninsula in case of emergencies. The North’s pace of nuclear and missile development is too alarming to remain complacent over.
Strongly condemning the provocation, the U.S. is cranking up its pressure against Pyongyang along with the international community. With the "April Crisis" on the peninsula fizzling out, some pointed to the possibility of U.S.-North Korea talks, but the cause for the Donald Trump administration to engage in dialogues has weakened. The actions taken by South Korean President Moon Jae-in will be of utmost importance at this juncture. The idea of inducing denuclearization through negotiations is desirable, but not so persuasive at the moment. If the Moon administration pursues dialogues to serve as Pyongyang’s cannon fodder, the alliance between the U.S. and South Korea will crack, and Kim Jong Un will also likely make little of the Moon administration. For the sake of future negotiations, now is the time for the South to pressure Kim Jong Un to give up on its nuclear ambition. President Moon needs to show a resolute attitude.