Defying U.N. sanctions and warnings by 70-year-old President Donald Trump, 33-year-old North Korea Leader Kim Jong-un threw down the gauntlet May 14 firing off a new Hwasong-12 Intermediate Range Ballistic Missile [IRBM]. Unlike other recent missile failures, the Hwasong-12 flew 787 km [489 nautical miles] with a trajectory altitude of 2,111.5 km [1,312 miles], a feat seen as a precursor to an Intercontinental Ballistic Missile [ICBM], capable of hitting the U.S. mainland. North Korea’s KCNA news agency boasted about the new missile technology, allowing the Kwasong-12 to travel up to 4,000 km or 2,500 miles at lower altitude. North Korea’s new test accelerates the timetable for developing an ICBM capable of hitting U.S. bases in Asia and possibly the U.S. homeland. Trump finds himself with the clock ticking faster than he thinks about North Korea.
Prevailing wisdom before yesterday’s test had Pyongyang years away from a workable ICBM threatening the U.S. homeland. Yesterday’s test “represents a level of performance never before seen from a North Korean missile,” said John Schilling, aerospace expert at the U.S.-based 38 North website. “It appears to have not only demonstrated an intermediate rage ballistic missile [IRBM] that might enable them to reliably strike the U.S. base in Guam, but more importantly, may represent a substantial advance to developing Intercontinental Ballistic Missile [ICBM].” North Korea’s technological leap accelerates the timetable for the threat to U.S. national security. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson warned that the U.S. reached an end to its policy of “strategic patience.” South Korea’s new President Moon Jae-in expressed concern over North Korea’s ballistic missile test.
Devoting six-pages to the launch, Rodong Sinmum newspaper boasted that the test proved that a nuclear warhead could survive “under the worst re-entry situation” and successfully explode hitting its target. If KCNA’s claim is true, it would mark a quantum leap in North Korea’s ICBM technology, said Kim Dong-yub, professor at Seoul-based Kyungnam University’s Institute of Far Eastern Studies. Kim noted the high altitude of the launch and re-entry technology consistent with the development of an ICBM. With Trump’s national security team, lead by National Security Advisor Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster and Defense Secretary James Mattis, they won’t wait too long before Kim can pack a nuclear warhead into an ICBM. Yesterday’s launch closes the window on U.S. “strategic patience,” especially with North Korea saying nothing will deter their nuclear and ballistic missile program.
After threatening a nuclear attack on U.S. soil April 12, Trump can only take North Korea at its word that it would nuke the U.S. South Korea’s new President Moon Jae-un hoped to reason with Kim but realizes the threat to the U.S. and South Korea grows by the day. “The test-fire proved to the full all the technical specifications of the rocket –like guidance and stabilization systems—and reconfirmed the reliability of new rocket engines under the practical circumstances,” KCNA, putting the U.S. on notice that Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea [DPRK] is getting dangerously close to an ICBM. Expecting nuclear test soon, Trump won’t have many options other than hitting Pyongyang with a devastating military strike. Waiting until Kim gets a nuclear-tipped ICBM is no longer an option for U.S. national security, especially with North Korea’s nuclear threats.
Kim Jong-un has been called “unhinged,” a code-word for mentally unstable by a number of North Korean experts, suggesting he’d do something crazy. While no knows for sure his mental status, what’s known is that North Korea has been threatening the U.S. with a nuclear attack. Kim’s recent missile tests up the ante because it’s a matter of time before he gets a usable nuclear-tipped ICBM. Joshua Pollack of the U.S.-based Nothproliferation Review said the nosecone of Kim’s rocket looked like the KN-08 ICBM he paraded in Pyongyang on his grandfather’s birthday April 15. With 16 U.N. resolutions in 1993, North Korea proves it doesn’t take the U.N. seriously, ignoring all attempts to rein in its nuclear and ballistic missile program. Trump faces some tough choices when Kim test-fires its next nuclear weapon, knowing U.N. resolution won’t protect U.S. national security.
Dogged by the media about specious claims of collusion with the Kremlin in the 2016 presidential race, Trump has bigger fish to fry dealing with North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile threat. South Korean Lee Choon-geun, a senior fellow at South Korea’s state-run Science and Technology Institute, said it’s difficult to predict when Kim will have a legitimate ICBM. Lee indicated that the new missile test demonstrated the kind of engineering necessary for a workable ICBM. Munich-based aerospace engineer Markus Schiller said that the trajectory and re-entry altitude of Kim’s latest missile gives skeptics reason to believe that North Korea’s getting dangerously close to a workable ICBM. Heading a collision course for war on the Korean Peninsula, Trump’s choices have narrowed, especially because China has shown little clout over North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs.