The North Korean regime of Kim Jong Un sent a message on Independence Day to the United States and our allies in the North Pacific Ocean, that the doomsday clock is ticking at a much faster clip.
The North Koreans have been engineering missiles of both short and intermediate ranges and we’ve seen them tested, with some successes and failures over the past three decades.
But up until the 4th of July, no one had seen even a test launch of a Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) coming from North Korean territory. We’ve seen versions of a couple of ICBM’s in past grandiose Russia styled military pageants, but no evidence of testing.
The DPRK military has been busy though. They started out by obtaining old Soviet era missiles from Syria and Egypt and then with the help of mercenary Russian missile engineers (also from the Soviet era), used the obsolete rockets as raw prototypes for new NK designs.
Our designated enemy, Iran and our dubiously designated “ally”, Pakistan have also been actively partnering with North Korea in the same time span. Pakistan, via the infamous A.Q. Khan provided technical know how to the Hermit Kingdom on uranium enrichment. The Institute for Science and International Security (with the unfortunate acronym, ISIS), estimated in a statement that:
“Since the end of 2014, or during the last 18 months, North Korea has added an estimated 4-6 nuclear weapons to this value, based on additional production of separated plutonium and weapon-grade uranium at Yongbyon, where any contribution of a second centrifuge plant is ignored.”
That would place the number of possible nuclear weapons at between 13 and 21 – enough to wreak massive destruction and loss of life in any number of likely directions and the Federation of American Scientists has estimated that North Korea has enough fissile material to “potentially produce 10-20 nuclear warheads”.
We also see a progression in the destructive capacity of the weapons based on the 5 tests NK has conducted so far – the most recent in September of last year, which measured in the range of 10 to 30 kilotons. As a point of comparison, if the weapons DPRK has produced are 20 kilotons – that would make them comparable in destructive power to the bomb the U.S. dropped on Nagasaki at the end of WWII.
America’s current arsenal of nuclear warheads are king-sized and have a yield ranging from 100 to 475 kilotons, depending on the delivery platform (air, land, sea).
The Kim regime is not being coy about what it is doing or intends to do. Kim frequently stages photo ops at nuclear tests and missile launches and the government openly publishes details of the nuclear weapons development underway. In a follow up report, we will discuss why this behavior is foolish and might prove to be the undoing of Kim and his nuclear program. A North Korean statement said:
“The standardization of the nuclear warhead will enable [North Korea] to produce at will and as many as it wants a variety of smaller, lighter and diversified nuclear warheads of higher strike power with a firm hold on the production of various fissile materials and technology for their use.”
Here is an amazing bit of video footage of the launch from Russian state affiliated internet media powerhouse Russia Today (RT) , no doubt provided them by the North Korean ministry of information:
The U.S. and Russia are in disagreement in their assessments of what NK launched on July 4th. While the U.S. Ambassador to the U.N., Nikki Haley condemned the DPRK launch, saying, “North Korea’s launch of an ICBM is a clear and sharp military escalation”, the Russians claim that the missile was not an ICBM, but instead, a “Hwasong-14 medium-range ballistic missile (IRBM) from North Korea, which flew a distance of 510 kilometers (317 miles) in 14 minutes, reaching an altitude of 535 kilometers (332 miles), before landing in the Sea of Japan.”
The United Nations does not believe Russia’s accounting of the facts either. The Security Council (not unanimously – Russia and China excepted) and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres descried the missile launch as:
“yet another brazen violation of Security Council resolutions and constitutes a dangerous escalation of the situation. The DPRK leadership must cease further provocative actions and comply fully with its international obligations.”
Certainly the Kim government is not denying that they launched an ICBM. Quite the contrary, the launch was a statement they intended to make.
Our next report concerning the situation, will deal with the various solutions that our national security officials are examining and the strengths and weaknesses of each scenario.