Going nuclear?

Going nuclear?
North Korea has fired a missile over northern Japan. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has called this an “unprecedented” threat to his country. In July 2017, North Korea successfully..

North Korea has fired a missile over northern Japan.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has called this an “unprecedented” threat to his country.

Background

In July 2017, North Korea successfully test launched two intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM). The state media announced that the first ICBM, which was launched on July 3rd, was a “gift” to America. At the time, experts said that this ICBM could reach Alaska. The second one can reportedly reach a number of cities in the US including Boston and New York.

After North Korea test launched a second ICBM, the UN Security Council unanimously imposed fresh sanctions on the country. These sanctions could significantly hurt North Korea’s $3 billion annual export revenue.

Additionally, in August, North Korea fired three short-range ballistic missiles into the sea. Japan had convened an emergency National Security meeting to address the threats posed by North Korea’s tests as the missile that was tested on July 28th, 2017, may have landed on waters in Japan’s economic zone.

Relations between Japan and North Korea are strained. There are no formal relations established between the two nations. Before Korea was divided into two nations, it was occupied by Japan in 1910. In the final days of World War II, Soviet Union declared war on Japan and advanced towards Korea. The US fearing that the Soviets would take over all of Korea, requested it to cease its military actions. Thus, Seoul and the southern part of Korea came to be occupied by US forces.  By 1948, Korea had been divided into two factions. North Korea has harbored animosity towards Japan for the role it played in the invasion of the region before World War II.

Analysis

The latest missile was a Hwasong-12 rocket and flew over northern Japan, as confirmed by South Korea. The missile was fired from near the nation’s capital, Pyongyang. According to early analysis of the missile, it is reported to have flown a distance of more than 2,700km. It reached an altitude of about 550km. This is much lower than the missiles that have been previously tested by North Korea. It flew over Erimomoisaki on the Northern Island of Hokkaido before falling into the Pacific Ocean. It broke into three pieces and fell into North Pacific Ocean – 1,180km from the Japanese coast.

Japan issued a warning to its citizens when the missile passed to take cover in a “sturdy” building or basement. The missile was reportedly powerful enough to carry a nuclear warhead. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe called this development an “unprecedented” threat to the country. During a televised statement he noted, “North Korea  launched a ballistic missile which appears to have flown over Japan. We will immediately collect and analyse details and the government will take full steps to protect Japanese people's lives."

Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga added, “So far no fallen objects have been confirmed to have fallen inside Japanese territory. There is no report of damage to aircrafts and vessels.”

Japan and the US are currently taking part in joint training drills in Hokkaido. In addition, US and South Korea are also conducting joint military exercises.

Assessment

Our assessment this demonstrates a new level of confidence by the North Koreans. It's for the first time that they have targeted a missile over Japan. In the past, they have tested missiles upwards on high trajectories and launched their satellites to the south to avoid firing missiles over Japan. It is also a message to the Americans that they can potentially strike Guam.  Kim Jong Un is definitely upping the ante and we feel that the Americans will have to go beyond the Trump’s rhetoric to deescalate the situation in the Korean Peninsula.

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