ROK Military Says There Are No Signs of Near Term North Korean ICBM Test

It looks like the US media may be misinterpreting whatever information was leaked to them about an impending North Korea ICBM test:

South Korea’s defense authorities said Thursday there has been no indication of an imminent missile test by North Korea, responding to U.S. news reports that the secretive nation appears to be preparing to fire another intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).

“There is no activity that would lead to an assessment that a missile provocation by North Korea is imminent,” Army Col. Roh Jae-cheon, spokesman for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said at a press briefing.

He pointed out, however, that it’s possible for the North to press ahead with a missile provocation anytime, adding South Korea and the United States are closely monitoring related situations.

Earlier this week, CBS News reported that the North has resumed its missile activity at the same site it shot an ICBM in November.

Newsweek also quoted U.S. officials as saying a new missile test may come as soon as later this week or next week.  [Yonhap]

You can read more at the link.

North Korea Claims It Has a Right to Launch Rockets as Part of A Legitimate Space Program

It looks like in the New Year we can expect more North Korean ICBM launches disguised as space launches:

North Korea on Monday defended its push for space development as a “legitimate” exercise of its rights, sparking speculation that it may continue to stage missile provocations under the disguise of satellite launches.

The Rodong Sinmin, the official newspaper of the North’s ruling Workers’ Party, claimed that with its launch of the Kwangmyongsong-4 satellite in February last year, Pyongyang has “in earnest” entered the stage of developing application satellites.

“Our satellite launch is a legitimate exercise of the right that thoroughly fits the U.N. Charter that enshrines the basic rights of respect for sovereignty and equality, and the international law that governs the peaceful use of space,” the newspaper said.

Enumerating foreign cases such as space development launches by Algeria and Venezuela, the newspaper said that space development has become a domain for international competition that involves not only a few advanced countries, but also many others.

“Our country is also in step with the trends of space development that is taking place broadly across the world,” it said.  [Yonhap]

You can read more at the link, but if the North Koreans want people to believe these are legitimate satellite launches then why don’t they invite inspectors to look at the payload on the rocket?

Article Claims that F-35 May Help With Intercepting North Korea’s ICBMs

Here is yet another good idea fairy in regards to defeating North Korea’s ICBMs:

Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., raised more than a few eyebrows (and drew a few rolled eyes) when he suggested in November that the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter could intercept North Korean missiles headed for the United States. Hunter cited analysis from Los Alamos National Labs and other sources, according to Inside Defense.

Turns out the F-35 may be an ICBM buster after all, or at least be helpful toward that end. On Tuesday, Northrop Grumman called a small group of journalists to its offices in Linthicum, Maryland, to show the results of a 2014 experiment conducted with the Missile Defense Agency, or MDA.

The U.S. has no foolproof way to down a North Korean ICBM. Physics says the best opportunity comes during “boost phase,” as the rocket is leaving the launch pad. But DPRK anti-aircraft defenses make it difficult for the U.S. to get a weapon close enough to do any good. That’s why the Pentagon is looking at elaborate, futuristic concepts like arming drones with missile-killing lasers.

But the F-35 is studded with sensors like no other aircraft, including the Distributed Aperture System, or DAS, a half-dozen 17-pound electro-optical and infrared sensors. These feed a helmet-mounted display that allows the pilot to effectively “see through the plane” and spot incoming aircraft and missiles.

In October 2014, Northrop and MDA launched FTX-20, an experiment to see, among other things, whether the DAS could track an enemy ICBM. They took data from the sensors, ran it through algorithms developed by Northrop and MDA’s Enterprise Sensor Lab, generated a 3D-moving picture of the missile’s trajectory, and conveyed it over the Link 16 tactical data exchange. This kind of targeting data can help cue the U.S.Navy’s anti-ballistic missile destroyers or short- and intermediate-range missile defenses like the Army’s Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, or THAAD, missile battery deployed in South Korea.  [Defense One]

You can read the rest at the link, but feeding data to Patriot, Aegis, and THAAD systems will not defeat North Korea’s ICBMs.  These systems are not designed to intercept ICBMs, the Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD) system is.  That is why people who understand missile defense would have rolled their eyes at Rep. Hunter’s claim.

Additionally even the feeding of data to these systems to help with cueing the sensors to North Korean launches is of little value considering the US already has two AN/TPY-2 radar sites in Japan that provide much better cueing data.  This all adds up to limited value of the capability the F-35 provides in regards to North Korea launches.

Picture of the Day: North Koreans Dance In Celebration of ICBM Test

N. Koreans celebrate missile test

North Koreans dance on the streets of Pyongyang on Nov. 30, 2017, in this photo in celebration of their country’s claimed successful test of a new type of an intercontinental ballistic missile. The North’s Korean Central News Agency, which released this photo, said servicepersons and civilians celebrated the test conducted a day earlier, assessed by the outside world as showing advances in the country’s missile technology.  (Yonhap)

North Korea’s New ICBM May Not Have Enough Power To Deliver a Nuclear Payload to the US

Here is an interesting read from the Associated Press about what experts are saying about North Korea’s new ICBM:

This Nov. 29, 2017, image provided by the North Korean government on Thursday, Nov. 30, 2017, shows North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, third from left, and what the North Korean government calls the Hwasong-15 intercontinental ballistic missile, in North Korea. Independent journalists were not given access to cover the event depicted in this image distributed by the North Korean government. The content of this image is as provided and cannot be independently verified. (Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP)

North Korea released dozens of photos Thursday of the Hwasong-15, a new intercontinental ballistic missile it claims can reach any target in the continental United States. The photo dump, published in the paper and online editions of the ruling party’s official daily, is a goldmine for rocket experts trying to parse reality from bluster.

Their general conclusion is that it’s bigger, more advanced and comes with a domestically made mobile launcher that will make it harder than ever to pre-emptively destroy. But there’s a potentially major catch: it might not have the power to go much farther than the West Coast if it is loaded down with a real nuclear warhead, not a dummy like the one it carried in its test launch on Wednesday.  [Associated Press]

You can read more at the link, but experts are skeptical that the North Koreans have miniaturized their nuclear warhead to a low enough weight to where this ICBM can deliver it to the US West Coast.

North Korea Claims After November 28th ICBM Launch that It Can Range Anywhere in the US

It looks like all areas of the continental United States are now at risk of being a target of a North Korean ICBM:

North Korea launched an apparent new intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) early Wednesday that reached an altitude of about 4,500 kilometers and traveled 960 kilometers before falling into the East Sea inside Japan’s Exclusive Economic Zone.

The missile launch, which broke a 75-day lull in the North’s provocations, drew strong condemnation from South Korea as well as the international community.  (……)

“The ICBM Hwasong-15 type weaponry system is an intercontinental ballistic rocket tipped with super-large heavy warhead which is capable of striking the entire mainland of the U.S. ,” the statement said.

It added the new system has much greater advantages in its tactical and technological characteristics than the Hwasong-14 missile tested in July.

The repressive state launched Hwasong-14s twice, July 4 and 28. The first one flew 933 kilometers in 39 minutes and reached an altitude of 2,802 kilometers, while the second one flew 998 kilometers in 47 minutes after reaching an altitude of 3,724 kilometers.  [Korea Times]

You can read more at the link, but experts report this ICBM if fired at a nominal trajectory could range 13,000 kilometers.  That would put all areas of the continental United States within range.

Here is how the Blue House responded to the launch:

Soon after the test, President Moon Jae-in presided over a National Security Council meeting at Cheong Wa Dae, during which he strongly denounced the North for its “military brinkmanship.”

“North Korea must stop making reckless choices that will only lead to its isolation and collapse,” Moon said, urging the Kim regime to come to the negotiation table.

“The government will never sit back and watch these provocations,” he said.

The Chinese have issued their usual statement about how concerned they are after the launch:

China voiced its strong objection and concerns over North Korea’s latest missile test Wednesday, joining South Korea, the United States and Japan in denouncing the North’s first weapons test in nearly 11 weeks.

“China expresses its grave concerns about and opposition to North Korea’s missile launch activities,” foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said in a press briefing.

Referring to the U.N.’s ban on North Korea’s ballistic missile activity, the spokesman said, “There are clear regulations on North Korean ballistic missile launches in United Nations Security Council resolutions.”

He also said, “China wants North Korea to stop any action that escalates tension on the Korean Peninsula.” He called on “other concerned countries” to act cautiously and maintain peace and security in the regional community.  [Yonhap]

At this point I wonder if the ROK and the Chinese just change the date on their press releases after North Korean provocations because the statements are similar after every incident.

North Korea Says It Does Not Have Plans to Nuke Europe

The fact that Europe is within ICBM range means that any NATO country that to comes to the aid of South Korea during a crisis puts them at risk of nuclear retaliation.  Will any NATO countries risk nuclear retaliation to help the ROK?:

North Korea responded Wednesday to European concerns about being in the path of Pyongyang’s potentially nuclear-capable intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) by assuring the leader of Western military alliance NATO that such weapons were only intended for the U.S.

NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said during an interview last week with Japanese newspaper Yomiuri Shimbun that “Europe has also entered the [North Korean] missile range, and NATO member states are already in danger.” North Korea’s ruling party-run Rodong Shinmun newspaper countered these claims, calling Stoltenberg’s remarks “false and groundless” because, although European states are indeed in North Korea’s missile range, Pyongyang has no intention of pulling the trigger.

“The DPRK’s ballistic rockets are for deterring the U.S. nuclear war hysterics and ensuring peace and security on the Korean peninsula and the region. They are not for threatening Europe and the world,” the commentary read, according to the official Korea Central News Agency, referring to the country’s official title: The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.  [Newsweek]

You can read more at the link, but this is just another example of how their nuclear and ICBM programs are about more than regime survival.  They also are being developed to isolate the ROK from its allies and ultimately separate the ROK from the US.