While under threat of military action by USA, likely to be triggered if another North Korean nuclear test is carried out, the government of North Korea, led by Kim Jong Un, shows no sign of slowing down in its parellel ballistic missile test programme. For the DPRK (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) does not just need nuclear warheads, it needs an accurate long range delivery mechanism to fly these to the target via a re-entry through the Earth’s atmosphere. And its latest test in its missile programme on 13 May has begun ringing alarm bells in the West that North Korea has both of these.

Hwasong-12 missile launch. Courtesy: KCNA

Specifically, a deliberately aimed-high sub-orbital trajectory of a test flight of North Korea’s Hwasong-12 ballistic missile reached an altitude of 2,111 km before fuel burnout, and landed in the Sea of Japan variously estimated to be 100-200 km from the Russian coast near Vladivostok in far eastern Russia. In other words, extrapolating from this performance indicates that the missile, which is thought to be a two stage design, has a near-Intercontinental range capability of 4,000 km (2,500 miles) and with a warhead delivery re-entry vehicle that can survive such a flight.

A larger version of the missile, which might have true intercontinental range, was displayed during a recent military parade in Pyongyang.

Japan is especially concerned that its islands will soon be under threat from nuclear armed ballistic missile attack, and is now considering a land-based Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) System similar to the SM-3 missile armed system available on its navy ships.

Post Script: Later in the month, North Korean forces subsequently made a shorter range Scud-class ballistic missile flight into the Sea of Japan.