I predicted that the North Koreans would commit a provocation in response to the Trump-Moon summit in Washington, DC and the Kim regime of course delivered:
A North Korean Hwasong-14 intercontinental ballistic missile is launched in this photo released by the North’s state-run Korean Central TV, Tuesday. The launch took place near Banghyon, North Pyongan Province, at 9:40 a.m. / Yonhap
South Korean President Moon Jae-in on Tuesday warned North Korea not to cross a “red line” after it claimed a successful test of its first intercontinental ballistic missile.
Moon urged the North to immediately halt its provocations, saying he is not sure what kind of consequence the communist state will have to face if it crosses the “red line.”
“I hope North Korea will not cross the point of no return,” the South Korean leader said in a meeting with former British Prime Minister David Cameron, according to his chief press secretary Yoon Young-chan.
His remarks came shortly after he ordered his top security officials to seek “UN Security Council measures” in close cooperation with the country’s allies, including the United States in an emergency meeting of the National Security Council.
North Korea launched what initially appeared to be an intermediate range missile at 9:40 a.m.
Later, the North’s official media said North Korean leader Kim Jong-un signed an order to test launch a new intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) the day before, also claiming the success of its launch.
Moon earlier noted the North may develop an ICBM in the “not too distant future.”
The North Korean reports said the new ICBM, Hwasong-14, reached an altitude of 2,802 kilometers, and flew 933 kilometers.
When launched at the right angle, the missile could reach up to 8,000 km, experts have noted.
Moon, even prior to the North Korean reports, told his security officials to handle the latest provocation as if it were an ICBM. [Yonhap]
You can read more at the link, but the Korea Times is reporting the missile could have up to a 10,000 kilometer range. However, USFK reported in the same article that the missile was an intermediate range ballistic missile with a range of 5,000 kilometers. US Pacific Command is reporting a range from 3,000 to 5,500 kilometers.
North Korea’s state-run Korean Central TV released photos of launching a Hwasong-14 intercontinental ballistic missile on Tuesday. From left; North Korean leader Kim Jong-un watches the missile test through binoculars; a transporter erector launcher (TEL) sets up the missile to launch; the missile blasts off. [YONHAP]
These ranges are important because if it is an 8,000 kilometer range than Hawaii and Alaska are within range. If it is a 10,000 kilometer range than the US mainland is within range. Not that Hawaii and Alaska are less important than the US mainland, but I think being able to credibly strike the US mainland does make a difference in regards to US response options. If the range is 5,000 kilometers then strategically nothing has really changed. It just means that Guam remains within range of North Korea’s missile threat which is why a THAAD battery is deployed to protect the island.
Google Earth image showing estimated distances from North Korea to US targets
In response to this latest test China and Russia are calling for North Korea to freeze their weapons program in exchange for the US and the ROK scaling down their bilateral military exercises:
Russia and China have proposed that North Korea declare a moratorium on nuclear and missile tests while the United States and South Korea refrain from large-scale military exercises.
The call was issued in a joint statement by the Russian and Chinese Foreign Ministries on Tuesday following talks between President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping. [Daily Mail]
This is something the Trump administration is going to hear more and more to do. I hope President Trump does not get suckered into this without severe measures for non-compliance. Like I have said before, a freeze deal may be something for the Trump administration to pursue if non-compliance by the Kim regime authorizes a pre-emptive strike against North Korea. Language in the deal would also make it quite clear the pre-emptive strike is not for regime removal, but to target the Kim regime’s weapons programs. The Kim regime cheated on all the past deals and will assuredly cheat on a freeze deal without the credible threat of force.