North Korea to launch missile?

North Korea to launch missile?
The probability of North Korea preparing for another ballistic missile launch has increased as Japan has detected radio signals that could be an indication for the development..

The probability of North Korea preparing for another ballistic missile launch has increased as Japan has detected radio signals that could be an indication for the development.

A report from Reuters has cited a source from the Japanese government in its assessment.

Background

North Korea has remained an isolated nation for decades. Its nuclear program has especially been a concern for the international community. In 2017, North Korea has launched 22 missiles in the span of 15 tests. It has increased its military activity since July of 2017 when it test launched two intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM). In August 2017, North Korea flew two missiles over Japan. The nation called it the “first step” in its Pacific operations. In September 2017, the nation has conducted its sixth nuclear test to date.

In response to North Korea’s activities, the United Nations imposed two rounds of fresh sanctions. There is now a ban on textile exports and a call to reduce oil imports by 30%. There is also a ban on hiring North Korean workers overseas. There are currently 100,000 North Koreans employed outside of the country. North Korea’s economy would be particularly hit as its trade with China has also been affected. The combined value of North Korea’s 2016 export to China, of coal, iron-ore, lead-ore, and seafood, all of which are now banned, was almost $1.5 billion. This is about 60% of its total exports.

On 29th August, 2017, in a move that was seen as an escalation, North Korea flew a missile over Japan. It was a was a Hwasong-12 rocket and the missile was launched close to North Korea’s capital, Pyongyang. The missile reached an altitude of about 550km. 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. Within weeks, North Korea fired another missile over Japan. This missile is said to have reached an altitude of 770km (478 miles). The missile travelled a distance of 3,700km.

 

Analysis

The probability of North Korea preparing for another ballistic missile launch has increased as Japan has detected radio signals that could be an indication for the development. A report from Reuters has cited a source from the Japanese government in its assessment.

Since September 2017, North Korea has not test launched any ballistic missiles and has not conducted any nuclear tests. It has however threatened military action against America. US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader have exchanged heated rhetoric. Trump has stated that the US will enter dialogue with North Korea only if the latter shuts down its nuclear programme. North Korea for its part has stated that this would not be taking place.

The government source said that the radio signals are indicative that the isolated nation could be preparing for another test launch. However, also noted that it could not determine when that would be taking place. “This is not enough to determine (if a launch is likely soon),” the source told Reuters. Japanese government is reportedly on alert after catching such radio signals

 “North Korea hasn’t been engaging in new nuclear or missile tests but recently we’ve seen them persistently testing engines and carrying out fuel tests,” said Cho at a media event in Seoul.

In addition, Japan has also increased its patrols and has urged local authorities and fishermen to be on the alert after several boats thought to be from North Korea were found on its northern coast. Some of these boats were said to be carrying dead bodies.

South Korean Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon told reporters on Tuesday there have been “noteworthy” movements from the North. However, he was also quick to amend that hard evidence was missing that this could result in a test launch over the next few days. Myoung-gyon said, “North Korea hasn’t been engaging in new nuclear or missile tests but recently we’ve seen them persistently testing engines and carrying out fuel tests. But we need some more time to see whether these are directly related to missile and nuclear tests.”

Pentagon spokesman Colonel Robert Manning said that the US was monitoring the situation closely adding, “This is a diplomatically led effort at this point, supported by military options. The Republic of Korea and U.S. alliance remains strong and capable of countering any North Korean provocations or attacks.”

North Korea is reportedly moving faster than expected in developing its arsenal.

Assessment

Our assessment is that the latest development indicates that North Korea has not slowed down in the development of its arsenal, despite harsh sanctions from the UN. It is evident that Kim Jong Un is singular in his ambition to acquire the capability to launch a nuclear missile. This will have serious implications as many other nations having the capability will pursue such an option. As we predicted earlier, North Korea would prefer to try their best to have the weapon before starting negotiations with the US. 

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