Profile of North Korea’s Nuclear and Rocket Scientists

The New York Times has a very good article published that shows who are the various scientists in North Korea that have made Kim Jong-un’s nuclear and ballistic missile ambitions so successful:

From left to right, Jang Cha-ha (scientist), Jon Il-ho (scientist), Kim Rak-gyom (commander of rocket forces), Yu Jin (munitions industry official).

“We have never heard of him killing scientists,” said Choi Hyun-kyoo, a senior researcher in South Korea who runs NK Tech, a database of North Korean scientific publications. “He is someone who understands that trial and error are part of doing science.”

Analysts are still trying to explain how North Korea managed to overcome decades of international sanctions and make so much progress so quickly. But it is clear the nation has accumulated a significant scientific foundation despite its backward image.

Its new ICBM is a feat of physics and engineering that has stunned the world, and each of its six nuclear tests has been more powerful than the last, boosting Mr. Kim’s stature at home and his leverage abroad.  [New York Times]

Also if you are wondering how the North Koreans have been so successful so quick with their nuclear and missile programs, this may explain it:

North Korea has also recruited scientists from the former Soviet Union, offering salaries as high as $10,000 per month, according to Lee Yun-keol, a defector who runs the North Korea Strategic Information Service Center in Seoul and has studied the history of the North’s nuclear program.

In 1992, a plane carrying 64 rocket scientists from Moscow was stopped before departing for North Korea. It is not clear how many, if any, former Soviet scientists made it to North Korea in the decades since.

Theodore A. Postol, a professor emeritus of science, technology and international security at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said the North has “this fantastic record for flying rockets the first time and having them succeed.”

“We think it’s because they had rocket motors and designs that were basically Russian designs, and they had the expertise of Russian engineers who knew how to solve the problems,” he said.

I recommend reading the whole thing at the link.

Air Force Research Laboratory Working on Microwave Weapon to Counter North Korean Ballistic Missiles

Here is the latest silver bullet people are thinking may solve the North Korean ballistic missile problem:

Mary Lou Robinson of the Air Force Research Laboratory explains the CHAMP missile. NBC News

The U.S. has microwave weapons that proponents believe could stop North Korea from launching missiles by frying their electronics.

The weapons were discussed at an August White House meeting related to North Korea, according to two U.S. officials with direct knowledge.

The microwave weapons, known as CHAMPs, are fitted into an air-launched cruise missile and delivered from B-52 bombers. With a range of 700 miles, they can fly into enemy airspace at low altitude and emit sharp pulses of microwave energy to disable electronic systems.

“These high-powered microwave signals are very effective at disrupting and possibly disabling electronic circuits,” said Mary Lou Robinson, who heads development of the weapons at the Air Force Research Laboratory in Albuquerque, in an exclusive interview with NBC News.  [NBC News]

You can read more at the link, but I recommend everyone not get excited and think a magic solution to stopping North Korea’s ballistic missiles has been found.

South Korea Looks to Increase Capability of Ballistic Missile Warheads

I don’t think the North Koreans will be too impressed by this news considering they are developing nuclear warheads:

In this file photo provided by the Ministry of Defense on June 23, 2017, Hyunmoo-2, a new homegrown ballistic missile with a range of 800 kilometers, is test-fired from a mobile launch pad at a test site of the Agency for Defense Development in Anheung, 200 kilometers southwest of Seoul, the same day with President Moon Jae-in on hand. (Yonhap)

The South Korean government is pushing to revise the missile guidelines developed with the United States to double the maximum weight of warheads on Seoul’s ballistic missiles from the current 500 kilograms to counter growing threats from the North, sources said Monday.

The Seoul government proposed the revision in line with the Seoul-Washington summit last month, and is known to be planning to begin talks regarding the issue during the annual Security Consultative Meeting (SCM) and the Korea-U.S. Integrated Defense Dialogue (KIDD) later this year, they said.

In 2012, the allies revised the ballistic missile guidelines, allowing Seoul to extend the maximum allowable missile range to 800 kilometers from the previous limit of 300 km, against North’s advancing nuclear and ballistic missile capacities. Under the deal, Seoul can load up to 500 kg of warheads on missiles with the range of 800 km.

“Our military is reviewing various measures to counter North Korea’s nuclear and missile provocations,” a government official said, declining to comment on the possible revision.  [Yonhap]

You can read more at the link.

Defense Officials Say North Korea May Be Preparing for SLBM Test

It looks like North Korea’s next provocation may be another submarine launched ballistic missile test:

This undated picture released from North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on August 25, 2016 shows a test-fire of strategic submarine-launched ballistic missile being launched at an undisclosed location. KNS/AFP/Getty

North Korea may be preparing for another missile launch aimed at the United States.

Kim Jong Un’s regime conducted its first successful intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) test on July 4—Independence Day in the U.S.—with some experts speculating that the missile could reach the U.S. states of Alaska and Hawaii, or even the Pacific Northwest.

And now the totalitarian regime appears to be preparing for submarine-based missile launches in the future.

Two U.S. defense officials told CNN on Thursday that a North Korean submarine was engaged in “unusual deployment activity” over the past 48 hours. The 65-meter-long submarine has sailed 62 miles out into international waters in the Sea of Japan/ East Sea, farther than the vessel has ever gone before.

U.S. officials are following the submarine via reconnaissance and the abnormal activity caused American and South Korean forces to slightly raise their alert level, according to one of the officials. [Newsweek]

You can read more at the link.

US Media Creating New Meme that USS Carl Vinson Vulnerable to North Korean Missile Attack

Here is the stupidest article that I have read today that is example of the bias in the mainstream media against the Trump administration:

Trump ‘Armada’ Sent to Deter Kim Can’t Shoot Down His Missiles

The U.S. Navy flotilla sailing toward the Korean peninsula to deter Kim Jong Un’s regime lacks a key capability: It can’t shoot down ballistic missiles.

The USS Carl Vinson and the aircraft carrier’s accompanying destroyers and cruiser are expected to arrive in waters near the peninsula this week, carrying a full complement of weaponry, including scores of Tomahawk cruise and anti-ship missiles, radar-jamming aircraft and non-stealthy “Super Hornet” jets built by Boeing Co.

That firepower brings a lot to any fight, but the Navy’s lack of ballistic missile defense capability on the scene means the Trump administration’s high-profile show of force has a significant gap as it warns North Korea against another missile test and pressures it to back down from its nuclear program.  [Bloomberg]

Does this writer, Anthony Capaccio really think the US Navy is stupid enough to put an aircraft carrier at risk of a North Korean ballistic missile strike without missile defense?  The US Navy will defend the aircraft carrier and any other assets with an Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) capability as needed.  Where the carrier is at now off the coast of Okinawa does not warrant Aegis BMD protection.

The article then goes on to claim the Korean peninsula is at risk from ballistic missile attack as well:

While the Obama administration began the process of deploying Thaad, a high-altitude missile defense system, to the South Korean mainland, the hardware isn’t fully operational yet either. That leaves Seoul — just 35 miles (56 kilometers) south of the demilitarized zone — and the rest of the country more vulnerable to attack.

Obviously Mr. Capaccio does not know that both the US and the ROK militaries have Patriot missile batteries located across the peninsula.  The THAAD battery was installed to add an advanced upper tier missile defense capability to compliment the already existing lower tier Patriot coverage.

It is pretty clear by the title of the article that Mr. Capaccio is trying to make President Trump look dumb by supposedly not having an Aegis BMD ship with the carrier.  The media is now jumping on this meme with Newsweek publishing a similar headline of “USS Carl Vinson Cannot Shoot Down Missiles“.  I wonder how many other media outlets will echo the same claim to where people who read just the headline begin to think it is true?

Expert Believes Iranian Ballistic Missile Test Was Not A Musudan

The missile that Iran recently test had some believing they may have tested North Korea’s Musudan missile.  According to one expert the test by Iran was not a Musudan they have had one successful flight test of, but likely an equivalent of North Korea’s No Dong missile that North Korea has a long history of successful flight tests with:

Iranian Ballistic Missile Test

Chances are low that the ballistic missile recently test-fired by Iran could have been North Korea’s Musudan intermediate range ballistic missile, a defense expert said.

Iran launched the missile on Jan. 29, which flew about 1,000 kilometers. Media reports have since surfaced suggesting that the missile could be the same as North Korea’s Musudan missile, which, if confirmed, would mean missile cooperation between the two countries is still ongoing.

But Michael Elleman, a senior fellow at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, said in an article carried by the website 38 North that there is little possibility that the Iranians have tested the Musudan.

“If the Iranian missile were modeled on the 3,000 kilometer-range Musudan, it would be an intermediate-range ballistic missile, contrary to the U.S. description of the Khorramshahr as a medium-range ballistic missile,” Elleman said.

While the July 2016 and January 2017 test flights conducted by Iran were largely successful, North Korea’s tests of the Musudan failed soon after launch in six of eight attempts, a wide discrepancy that is difficult to explain even if Iran is more capable at missile development, he said.  [Yonhap]

You can read more at the link.

Heritage Foundation Report Says North Korea has Nuclear Missiles that Can Target the US

Really nothing new here because reports of North Korea being able to target the US have persisted for years despite the fact they have never test fired one of their KN-08 missiles to prove it:

“North Korea has an extensive ballistic missile force that could strike South Korea, Japan, and US military bases in Asia,” the report states. “Pyongyang has deployed at least 400 Scud short-range tactical ballistic missiles, 300 No-Dong medium-range missiles, and 100 to 200 Musudan intermediate-range ballistic missiles.”

The longest-range missile, the Taepo Dong 2, is still in development. However, if deployed, the missile is believed to be nuclear capable if North Korea ever succeeded in miniaturizing nuclear warheads.

The most serious of North Korea’s missile threats comes from the country’s KN-08 missile.  The KN-08 is a road-mobile intercontinental missile, meaning Pyongyang can move the launch system throughout the country. In contrast, other long-range missiles must be fired from stationary launch pads.

“It’s the relocatable target set that really impedes our ability to find, fix, and finish the threat,” Adm. Bill Gortney, the commander of NORAD, told reporters in April 2015. “And as the targets move around and we if don’t have the persistent stare and persistent [intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance] that we do not have over North Korea at this time, that relocatable nature makes it very difficult for us to counter it.”

Heritage notes that Gortney also said in April 2015 that the KN-08 “is operational today. Our assessment is that they have the ability to put a nuclear weapon on a KN-08 and shoot it at the homeland.”   [Business Insider]

You can read more at the link.

Should South Korea Expand Production of Ballistic Missiles?

South Korea had another successful test of their newest ballistic missile:

Image from Reuters.

President Park Geun-hye watched South Korea’s first test-fire of a ballistic missile capable of reaching nearly all parts of North Korea, Cheong Wa Dae said Wednesday, in an apparent show of force against the communist archrival.

The test-firing took place at a firing range run by the state-run Agency for Defense Development in Taean, South Chungcheong Province, presidential spokesman Min Kyung-wook said.

It is the first time in three decades that a president visited the firing range on the west coast.

The move came amid tensions on the Korean Peninsula over North Korea’s provocative actions in recent weeks, including a launch of a ballistic missile from a submarine.  [Yonhap]

You can read more at the link, but South Korea was allowed to start developing these missiles by the United States back in 2012. Considering the technological advantage South Korea has over the North I am sure they can rapidly develop some great ballistic missile systems.

Something to keep in mind is that if these missiles can target all areas of North Korea they will also have the range to target large Chinese cities like Shanghai and Beijing.  I wonder if the ROK continues to develop ballistic missiles to counter the North that this will get the Chinese government to try and reel in the North Koreans?  This seems like the best reason for the ROK to continue the development of ballistic missiles.

Will North Korea’s Submarine Ballistic Missile Test Justify Deployment of THAAD?

That is what this Voice of America article brings up:

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un (L) stands on the conning tower of a submarine during his inspection of the Korean People’s Army (KPA) Naval Unit 167 in this undated photo released by North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang.

South Korean officials Monday outlined their worries about North Korea’s first test missile launch from a submarine. Although the test does not immediately change the military status quo on the Korean peninsula, it shows Pyongyang is working on a difficult-to-detect missile system that could become capable of threatening countries around the world.

South Korean Defense Ministry spokesman Kim Min-seok confirmed that North Korea did test-fire an underwater ballistic missile on May 8. He called the test a serious and great concern and urged Pyongyang to immediately stop further development of this weapon. But the defense ministry spokesman also said the test indicates North Korea is years away from deploying this enhanced capability.

He said the ministry’s view is that North Korea’s test-fire this time shows it is in the early stage of development of a submarine launched ballistic missile program. According to the cases of advanced countries, he said, it takes about four to five years after the underwater test to complete the development of the system.

Still, the fact that Pyongyang is on a trajectory to develop a submarine based missile system means it could develop the capability to strike anywhere in the world, including the mainland of the United States.

This new capability would make less effective South Korea’s current Kill Chain missile system, intended to target and destroy North Korean missile launch sites.

The increased North Korean threat could trigger a new arms race on the Korean peninsula. It could also be used to justify the deployment of the United States anti-ballistic missile system called THAAD. Seoul had been reluctant to accept THAAD in part because China opposes its deployment.  [Voice of America]

You can read more at the link, but since the development of an actual working missile launched from a submarine is years away I don’t think this gives the ROK the cover it needs to allow the US to deploy THAAD to Korea against China’s wishes.