Last week the United States government changed North Korea’s status from potential threat to practical threat. CNN reports:
Washington (CNN)The US government is increasingly concerned that advances in North Korea’s weapons program have dramatically decreased the warning time for a nuclear attack on America or its allies, according to US officials.
The regime’s aggressive testing of medium- and long-range missiles — as well as its nuclear testing — makes North Korea now a “practical” threat and no longer a “theoretical” threat, in the words of one US official familiar with the latest US intelligence thinking.
Significantly, North Korea no longer cares if the world sees its test failures, according to the latest analyses, allowing Pyongyang to more openly, aggressively and repeatedly test all of the key components needed for an attack.
As a result, the regime has the ability to hold the US and allies “at risk” with nuclear weapons, the US official said.
On Wednesday North Korea conducted another missile test, this time launching a ballistic missile from a submarine into the waters between North Korea and Japan. From Reuters:
North Korea fired a submarine-launched missile on Wednesday that flew about 500 km (311 miles) towards Japan, a show of improving technological capability for the isolated country that has conducted a series of launches in defiance of UN sanctions.
Having the ability to fire a missile from a submarine could help North Korea evade a new anti-missile system planned for South Korea and pose a threat even if nuclear-armed North Korea’s land-based arsenal was destroyed, experts said.
The ballistic missile was fired at around 5:30 a.m. (2030 GMT) from near the coastal city of Sinpo, where a submarine base is located, officials at South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Defence Ministry told Reuters.
The projectile reached Japan’s air defence identification zone (ADIZ) for the first time, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a briefing, referring to an area of control designated by countries to help maintain air security.
The missile was fired at a high angle, South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency reported, an indication that its full range would be 1,000 km (620 miles) at an ordinary trajectory. The distance indicated the North’s push to develop a submarine-launched missile system was paying off, officials and experts said.
There was, apparently, no report of the class of the particular missile that was tested. It was presumably a KN-11 (also known as a Polaris-1, Bukgeukseong-1, or Nodong-D), the first completely successful test of the technology. Since North Korea is not known to possess nuclear submarines or diesel-electric submarines capable of reaching Hawaii or the Western U. S. seaboard, the capability does not pose a direct threat to the U. S. but it does pose a threat to the South Koreans and the Japanese.
I’m actually a bit surprised that the U. S. still hasn’t done what I suggested some time ago: use these missile tests as handy opportunities for testing missile defenses. My best guess is that we don’t want to aggravate the Chinese.
How do you deal with an enemy like North Korea that manifestly cannot be trusted, that cannot be deterred, and that is not a “rational actor”, at least not as we view reasonableness? North Korea’s only real patron is China and China appears to be willing to put up with any provocation from North Korea as long as the country doesn’t collapse entirely. China itself has been acting in a more provocative manner in the region.