North Korea says missile launch was training for targeting US bases in Japan
At least four medium-range ballistic missiles presumed to be modified Scuds flew about 620 miles and reached an altitude of 160 miles after being launched Monday morning from the Dongchang-ri long-range missile site in the North, South Korean military officials said. The projectiles landed about 200 miles off Japan’s coast.
North Korea’s state-run news agency said the “rocket launching drill” was conducted by Hwasong artillery units “tasked to strike the bases of the U.S. imperialist aggressor forces in Japan in contingency.”
The North Korean leader was briefed on the launching plan and gave an order to start the drill after touring the ballistic rocket launching grounds, the Korean Central News Agency added.
“Feasting his eyes on the trails of ballistic rockets, he appreciated that Hwasong artillery units of the Strategic Force are very good at organizing and commanding fire strikes and strictly ensuring rapid and simultaneous fire strikes,” it said.
Photos published in the ruling Workers’ Party newspaper Rodong Sinmun showed four missiles taking off with a cloud of smoke and flames trailing them. Kim Jong Un and aides also are shown laughing. In one picture only the back of the leader’s head can be seen as he watches four fiery balls rising above mountains in the distance.
KCNA quoted Kim as saying “the four ballistic rockets launched simultaneously are so accurate that they look like acrobatic flying corps in formation.”
As usual, the report did not specify the date of the drill, but missile tests are usually announced by its state media the day after they happen.
The South Korean military said the missiles appeared to be using technology from submarine-launched ballistic missiles, which Pyongyang tested last year.
North Korea Launches Four Missiles “Simultaneously”
Yesterday North Korea launched four ballistic missiles into the Sea of Japan.
The missiles reportedly traveled an average of 1,000 km (620 miles), and landed within 300 to 350 km (185 to 220 miles) of Japan. The four launches were said to be “simultaneous,” leading to speculation they were intended to be a barrage attack to overwhelm a missile defense system.
The missiles were launched from Tongchang-ri, in northwest North Korea, where the Sohae Satellite Launch Station is located. Missiles of this range would not need the facilities at Sohae, so it’s not known if there was a particular reason they were launched from this facility.
A South Korean briefing gave the apogee of the missile as 260 km (160 miles). That implies the missiles reached essentially their maximum range (unlike some recent North Korean tests that were tested on highly lofted trajectories, so that their maximum range would be longer than the range seen in the test).
That rules out anything like an ICBM.
North Korea has three missiles that have ranges similar to this: Extended-Range Scud (“Scud-ER”), Nodong, and Pukguksong-2. The latter, which is solid-fueled, has been flight tested only twice (once from sea and once from land), and is probably not what the North launched since it has little information about its reliability and would be unlikely to try launching four simultaneously.
Instead, this set of tests instead looks very similar to a multiple-missile test North Korea conducted last September 5. In that case it launched three missiles in rapid succession from mobile launchers sitting on a road south of Pyongyang. These missiles flew about 1,000 km and landed off the coast of Japan.
A careful analysis of those launches indicate they were Extended-Range Scud (“Scud ER”) missiles, which are modifications of short-range Scud missiles, lengthened to carry additional fuel and lightened by making the body out of aluminum rather than the usual steel. This analysis suggests the missile could carry a warhead of roughly 500 kg to 1,000 km.
A video of the September launches show that the first and second launches were less than a minute apart, and the second and third launches were separated by just seconds.
This analysis notes that these modifications lead to “the maximum performance that a single Scud-B engine can achieve in a missile.” They believe this is not a new missile, but may date back to 2000 or earlier.
More information may make clear whether yesterday’s test was of Scud-ERs, Nodongs, or something unexpected.
U.S. starts deploying anti-missile system in South Korea after defiant North’s latest test
SEOUL The United States started to deploy the first elements of its advanced anti-missile defence system in South Korea on Tuesday after North Korea’s test of four ballistic missiles, U.S. Pacific Command said, despite angry opposition from China.
The announcement came as North Korean state media said leader Kim Jong Un had personally supervised Monday’s missile launches by an army unit that is positioned to strike U.S. bases in Japan, stepping up threats against Washington as U.S. troops conduct joint military exercises with South Korea.
“Continued provocative actions by North Korea, to include yesterday’s launch of multiple missiles, only confirm the prudence of our alliance decision last year to deploy THAAD to South Korea,” U.S. Pacific Commander Admiral Harry Harris said in a statement, referring to the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) anti-missile system.
The move by the U.S. military is likely to deepen the brewing conflict between South Korea and China, which says the THAAD deployment destroys the regional security balance.
The four ballistic missiles fired by North Korea landed in the sea off Japan’s northwest, angering Seoul and Tokyo, days after Pyongyang promised retaliation over the military drills that it sees as preparation for war.
U.S. President Donald Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe discussed the launches by the nuclear-armed North during a phone call on Tuesday.
“Japan and the U.S. confirmed that the latest North Korean missile launches were clearly against U.N. resolutions and a clear provocation against the regional and international community,” Abe told reporters. “(North Korea’s) threat has entered a new phase.”
Trump also spoke to South Korea’s acting President Hwang Kyo-ahn to discuss the North’s missile launches, Hwang’s office said.
Reclusive North Korea, which has carried out a series of nuclear and missile tests in defiance of United Nations resolutions, issued a typically robust statement on state news agency KCNA after the missile launches.
“In the hearts of artillerymen … there was burning desire to mercilessly retaliate against the warmongers going ahead with their joint war exercises,” KCNA said.
It said Kim ordered the Korean People’s Army’s Strategic Force “to keep highly alert as required by the grim situation in which an actual war may break out any time, and get fully ready to promptly move, take positions and strike so that it can open fire to annihilate the enemies”.
The missiles North Korea fired on Monday were unlikely to have been intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), South Korea said, which can reach the United States. They flew on average 1,000 km (620 miles) and reached an altitude of 260 km (160 miles).
Some landed as close as 300 km (190 miles) from Japan’s northwest coast, Japan’s defence minister said earlier.
South Korean military and intelligence officials said on Tuesday the four North Korean missiles appeared to be an upgraded version of the Scud type – Extended-Range Scud.
North Korea is mired in a separate diplomatic row with Malaysia over the killing of Kim’s estranged half-brother at Kuala Lumpur airport last month. [L5N1GK0AA]
The two countries have expelled each other’s ambassador from their capitals and on Tuesday announced tit-for-tat bans on departures of each other’s nationals, sharply escalating tensions between two countries that, until the killing of Kim Jong Nam, had maintained rare close ties.