North Korea continues to advance its intercontinental ballistic missile program to launch nuclear attacks
North Korea’s missile program is unfolding in the deepest of secrecy like everything else that goes on in the country. It is not known exactly what missiles are being developed or the cost to the country. The strategy behind the missile program and the development of nuclear weapons is also unclear, although it is supposedly being done to gain a prestigious international position, although for the moment it only brings isolation and economic sanctions.
The successive experimental missile launches that Kim Jong Un carries out from time to time cost at least several tens of millions of dollars, a sidereal sum for a country with a depleted economy that barely manages to feed its citizens. To this must be added the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, which seems to have spread strongly among the population despite official secrecy and the fact that the regime refuses international aid and the country has no vaccines.
The key to understanding North Korea’s missile program seems to lie in the fact that Kim Jong Un no longer considers South Korea as his main enemy and now intends to develop an arsenal that will enable him to confront the world’s main power, the United States of America, on an equal footing. This intercontinental ballistic missile should, of course, be capable of carrying nuclear warheads to provide a threat that will frighten the American enemy.
Developing an ICBM is no simple task. From the outset, it must be understood that one of these intercontinental missiles consists mainly of 2 phases: firstly a launch rocket that is responsible for lifting the vehicle into ballistic orbit above the Earth’s atmosphere and secondly a reentry vehicle that withstands the friction of the return to the atmosphere and is capable of carrying and launching the multiple warheads, nuclear or otherwise, that it should be able to carry. The latest tests conducted by North Korea seem to indicate that they are still in the development of the first phase and there is no record of a reentry vehicle being developed or at least implemented.
The only details known come from official North Korean statements. The state agency KCNA reported that the Hwasong-17 took off from a mobile launcher at Pionyang International Airport and reached a maximum altitude of 6,248 kilometers (the atmosphere reaches approximately 100 kilometers in altitude) and traveled a distance in the horizontal of just over 1,000.
According to some analysts, the missile was launched with a very vertical trajectory in order to avoid flying over other countries, as stated in the North Korean communiqué, but if it had chosen another trajectory it could have reached the continental United States.
North Korea possesses nuclear weapons capability. In 2006 it tested a nuclear device, making it the ninth nuclear power in the world. On May 25, 2009, North Korea successfully conducted a second nuclear test consisting of a 20 kiloton subway explosion approximately 15 km from the first North Korean test site in Kilju, North Hamgyong Province, near the Russian border.
On January 6, 2016, North Korea made known to the world its ability to manufacture advanced nuclear weaponry by conducting a nuclear test of a hydrogen bomb. Likewise, on September 9 of the same year, it conducts a subway test.
By April 20, 2018, Kim Jong-un announced the suspension and shutdown of nuclear programs.
Now, North Korea is back on the attack and is preparing for a nuclear test at its Punggye-ri test site, while the only remaining step is a political decision by the chairman of the North Korean State Affairs Committee, Kim Jong-un.
Although it is all speculation when talking about the Asian country, it could be postponing what would be its seventh nuclear test considering China’s political calendar and its own coronavirus-related situation.
Does North Korea have the capability to launch a nuclear strike against the United States?
In short, no.
Launching a successful intercontinental nuclear strike requires three factors:
- Having launchable nuclear weapons. It is one thing to be able to set off a nuclear explosion in a subway facility near your laboratory and another to detonate a nuclear device thousands of miles away. You could at best be given the benefit of the doubt.
- To have a launch vector capable of reaching the stratosphere and re-entering the Earth’s atmosphere to fire several nuclear weapons. What is known so far about the North Korean missile program is that they might have succeeded in the first part and would already have a launcher for the initial phase of the ballistic trajectory. Now the most difficult part remains, which is the reentry vehicle and the dispersion of the nuclear payloads.
- To count on the surprise factor or to have a certain saturation capacity. The launch of an Intercontinental ballistic missile is not something that can be done in secret and is immediately detected by U.S. satellite networks. Moreover a single intercontinental missile is easily destroyed by the anti-missile systems that exist today. It would be another thing if North Korea were in a position to launch a multiple attack with dozens of simultaneous intercontinental missiles, but it seems that right now it does not have such an arsenal.
In short, although in Western countries it may seem foolish and a waste of the country’s few economic resources, the fact is that North Korea’s nuclear program continues to advance and in a few years it will be able to launch intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of reaching any point on the planet.
Another dangerous madman with nuclear weapons.