North Korea tests missiles

North Korea tests missiles
According to US military, North Korea has fired three short-range ballistic missiles into the sea. North Korea views the United States as its greatest threat. The distrust is mutual as..

According to US military, North Korea has fired three short-range ballistic missiles into the sea.

Background

North Korea views the United States as its greatest threat. The distrust is mutual as former US President George W Bush once referred to North Korea as part of the “Axis of Evil.”

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. US has responded by condemning the tests and carrying out joint military exercises along with South Korea. Many top officials from the US, including Nikki Haley, the United States Ambassador to UN, have said that the country would not rule out a military conflict if a resolution is not reached.

US has condemned the tests and has conducted joint military exercises with South Korea in retaliation. The UN Security Council unanimously imposed fresh sanctions on the country. These sanctions could cut North Korea’s $3 billion annual export revenue by a third.

Additionally, North Korea announced that it will strategically target Guam (a US island territory) using its domestically made medium-to-long-range Hwasong-12 missiles. Guam currently hosts 6,000 US service members and has a population of over 160,000 people.

Analysis

According to officials in South Korea, the missiles fired were launched from the North Korean province of Gangwon. Initial US reports suggested that the tests were a failure. Commander Dave Benham of the US Pacific Command said, “The first and third missiles... failed in flight. The second missile launch... appears to have blown up almost immediately.”

However, the U.S. Pacific Command has revised its assessment and said that the first and third missiles did not fail in flight. According to Benham, the missiles flew a reported 250km.

The missiles were fired just days after US Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, expressed cautious hope for a future dialogue between the nations. Tillerson noted, "We have had no missile launches or provocative acts on the part of North Korea since the unanimous adoption of the UN Security Council resolution. We hope that this is the beginning of this signal that we've been looking for - that they are ready to restrain their level of tensions, they're ready to restrain their provocative acts, and that perhaps we are seeing our pathway to sometime in the near future having some dialogue."

Assessment

Our assessment is that North Korea’s latest tests effectively puts an end to the possibility of dialogue between the two nations in the short term. This is North Korea calling the bluff on US’ threat of a military conflict.  We believe North Korea is keen to show the world that their solid fuel missile program is improving at a steady state. Solid fuel missiles are faster and easier to deploy and harder to catch before they launch because there is lot less to be done in terms of launch preparation. All US and Russian ballistic missiles are solid fuel models. We believe that the US may have provoked North Korea by conducting the joint exercise with South Korea.   

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