Wednesday, February 10, 2016

North Korea's ICBM


Since way back in the Before Time the world has been magically blessed with 2 Koreas - the yankee part is little more than a starving, slave trading underground rocket factory with an unfree, unfun new clear weaponized nation state attached.

Now North Korea has launched yet another missile - an ICBM.

The rocket the North Koreans call the Unha-3 was probably the most advanced version of their Taepodong missile. It appears, from the location of Sunday’s splashdown zones, that the launcher has a range of 10,000 kilometers, the same as that of the 2012 version.

Up to now, the North’s longest-range missile was never much of a weapon. It required weeks to transport, assemble, fuel, and test before launch. The calculus was that the U.S., in a wartime setting, would have plenty of time to destroy the launcher on the ground.

The North Koreans since 2012 have obviously been able to compress the cycle. This time, Pyongyang moved up the launch window and sent the Unha-3 into space on the window’s first day, surprising just about every observer.

That means, of course, the North Koreans are perfecting their launch skills, thereby decreasing on-the-ground vulnerability.

The American intelligence community does not think the North Koreans have built a miniaturized nuclear warhead to go along with the Taepodong yet, but it’s clear they are on their way to developing such a device. The launch this week was one month and one day after their fourth nuclear detonation. Pyongyang, for all the snickering and derision it attracts, is capable of sneaking up on us and becoming an existential threat.

When we examine evidence of the most recent crisis—scraps of the missile that fell into the sea Sunday and flight data—we will probably learn the North Koreans in fact tested their new 80-ton booster, which they have been developing for at least two years. It is almost certain Iran has paid for its development.

That’s why Bechtol, author of North Korea and Regional Security in the Kim Jong-un Era, thinks America in the months ahead should be looking for evidence of sales of the new missile to Iran.

Center for Strategic and International Studies told the House Committee on Foreign Affairs in July that North Korea earns “upwards of two to three billion dollars annually from Iran for the various forms of collaboration between them.”