On the heels of an announcement just days ago wherein the US and South Korea reached a deal permitting South Korea to extend its missile range, North Korea has retaliated with threats that the nation possesses a long-range missile which can reach the US mainland. The new deal between Washington and Seoul revised the range of missiles from 300 kilometers to 800 kilometers, thus extending the range of South Korea’s ballistic missiles to include the northern peninsula of North Korea.
Do we start scanning the skies for incoming North Korean missiles? Will Washington end up looking like a scene from a high budget Michael Bay movie? Not likely. South Korea’s intention when revising the missile pact was not to threaten North Korea directly but to deter any armed attacks coming from North Korea. (CNN) Furthermore, this isn’t the first time the missile pact was reformed. In 1972 the missile range was 180 kilometers. If we jump ahead to 2001, the range of 300 kilometers was agreed upon between Washington and Seoul.
While it is widely believed that North Korea possesses capable short and medium-range missiles (pointed at South Korea, no less), analysts aren’t convinced of a long-range missile capable of inflicting damage on the US. (BBC) Known as Taepodong-2, North Korea’s long-range missile technology does not appear to be capable of doing the physical damage Pyongyang threatens. The past two North Korean rocket launch failures in April 2009 and April 2012 were an attempt to test and expand the development of a long-range missile. While we can’t know for sure, The Center for Nonproliferation Studies estimates the Taepodong-2 missile would have a maximum range of 6,000km. (BBC) Is Washington in North Korea’s (actual) sights? Not likely, but Alaska could be. That is, if the technology ever catches up with the commentary.
A statement attributed to North Korea’s National Defence Commission said Pyongyang would match any enemy “nuclear for nuclear, missile for missile”. (BBC) So why the ominous threat to US security and coastlines? In short, there was no other response North Korea could have given. The missile range extension forced North Korea to respond in some fashion or else risk appearing unphased by Washington and Seoul’s strengthening relationship. Is this just another tongue lashing from the government of North Korea, or is there some basis behind this missle threat? I suppose only the next North Korean rocket launch will tell.