The same day American Vice President Mike Pence offered North Korea a warning about their pursuit of nuclear weapons from the demilitarized zone separating it from the southern half of the Korean Peninsula, North Korea has responded by announcing plans to ramp up their missile testing program.
“We’ll be conducting more missile tests on a weekly, monthly and yearly basis,” Vice Foreign Minister Han Song-Ryol told the BBC. He then added that an “all out war” would result if the U.S. military attempted to take action to prevent such tests from occurring.
North Korea’s ballistic missile program was on full display during a Saturday parade commemorating the birth of North Korean founding father, Kim Il Sung, with a number of missile incarnations present, including never before seen (or tested) ICBM launch canisters, submarine-based ballistic missiles and a land based short to medium ranged variation of the same. It was speculated that a sixth atomic test would take place as well, but the parade was instead punctuated elsewhere in the country the following day with a ballistic missile test that appears to have failed within seconds of launch.
The launch was attempted from a site in Sinpo, North Korea, approximately four hundred miles from Japan. Reports from the U.S.’s Pacific Command as well as the South Korean military both showed the missile exploding just seconds after leaving the ground. Confirmation has not come from North Korea itself, however that is to be expected, as they have established a precedent of not acknowledging failed tests in state-owned media outlets.
“The president and his military team are aware of North Korea’s most recent unsuccessful missile launch. The president has no further comment,” Secretary of Defense James Mattis said in a statement Saturday night.
The failed test in Sinpo, an area that also houses North Korea’s submarine port, in conjunction with images of submarine-based ballistic missiles in Saturday’s parade indicates that this latest failed test may have been of a variant intended specifically for launch from submarines. North Korea’s ballistic missile tests thus far have demonstrated a range of around 600 kilometers, or 370 miles, which limits strategic targets to U.S. bases in South Korea and Japan. Placing similar platforms on submarines, referred to as submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBM), would allow for North Korea to target many more places, as even their dated subs can be difficult to locate and track while traveling beneath the sea.
“SLBMs are more threatening than any other type of missile of the same range because it can evade radar detection, including the THAAD,” Shin In-kyun, President of Korea Defense Network a civic group specializing in military affairs, told reporters on Monday. “If North Korea [can] complete building 3,000-ton submarine, they can then attack Guam, Hawaii and even Alaska with an SLBM.”
North Korea is now facing down the barrel of the American carrier strike group led by the USS Carl Vinson, as well as approaching Japanese destroyers and even increased sanctions from their primary ally and trade partner China as a result of their continued pursuit of long-range, nuclear capable missiles.
“Just in the past two weeks, the world witnessed the strength and resolve of our new president in actions taken in Syria and Afghanistan,” Vice President Pence said at the North Korean border on Monday.
“North Korea would do well not to test his resolve or the strength of the armed forces of the United States in this region.”
Image courtesy of AFP