Link The latest missile launch on July 4th is not believed to be a cold launch however.
On Sunday, the North Korean military conducted a second, successful test of the Pukguksong-2, a solid-fuel intermediate range ballistic missile based on a design derived from the country’s submarine-launched ballistic missile. While this might seem like just more saber-rattling from Pyongyang’s leadership given the relatively continuous chain of test launches since President Donald Trump’s inauguration (a total of 10 so far this year), this launch and the launch on May 13 carry a bit more weight.
According to North Korea’s government media, Sunday’s test shows that the Pukguksong-2 is now ready to be “mass-produced.” If true, that development would substantially increase the threat posed by North Korea’s missile force—the Pukguksong-2 can be deployed on tracked mobile launchers, and it uses a “cold-launch” system that requires much less preparation time, which provides much less of an opportunity for the US and allies to detect an impending attack. The tracked launchers also increase the potential number of locations from which the missile could be launched. And the range of the missile appears to be greater than originally estimated.
Sunday’s missile test was tracked by US Pacific Command. The test missile flew in a high-lofting path from North Korea’s west coast across the country and toward Japan, landing in the Sea of Japan. The missile flew approximately 500 kilometers (310 miles) and reached an altitude of about 560 kilometers (about 350 miles). It has an estimated range of 3,000 kilometers (1,900 miles) or more. If launched from within North Korea, the missile could potentially strike all of Japan, South Korea, and even US forces in Guam. By comparison, the Pukguksong-1 submarine-launched missile is believed to have a 1,000 kilometer (620 mile) range.
North Korean media reports shows leader Kim Jong Un observing what appeared to be video relayed back from the warhead on the missile. “The whole world looks beautiful and feels happy when I see the Earth filmed by a rocket launched by us,” Kim is reported to have said.
The May 13 launch is also cause for concern. Tracked by the US’ recently deployed Terminal High Altitude Air Defense (THAAD) system in South Korea, that launch was of another intermediate-range ballistic missile called the Hwasong-12. The missile entered Japan’s air defense identification zone after reaching an altitude of 2,111 kilometers (about 1,300 miles). That high-arcing flight indicates that the Hwasong could have a range of as much as 4,000 kilometers (3,400 miles). The missile could be a stepping stone to a truly intercontinental ballistic missile—one that could reach the US.