How worrisome is North Korea's Missile Testing?

International Sep 20, 2021

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In September of 2021, North Korea published the success of the long-range testing of cruise missiles. A few hours later, they also test-launched ballistic missiles. As reported by South Korea and Japan, the missiles landed in Japan's exclusive economic waters but outside the territorial waters. The range of these missiles makes it capable of hitting Japan, which raises concern. The economic plight of the pandemic and other circumstances has not prevented the missile technology of North Korea. These factors and the lack of a formal statement from North Korean administrators make this situation a potential crisis.

What are Cruise Missiles and Ballistic Missiles?

Both of these differ in their functionality. Cruise missiles are much lighter in terms of lading and have the ability to swerve mid-air. This gives them the tactical advantage to attack from unexpected angles. The low altitude flight of the missile makes detection difficult for ground based radar systems. Ballistic missiles have a heavier payload which makes them more threatening, as they can carry more ammunition, have a greater range and also incredible speed.

What is the Destructive Potential of these Missiles?

North Korean state media described these missiles as "strategic missiles". These newly tested projectiles give the North Korean regime the probability of attaching a nuclear warhead onto them. The missiles were hinted at previously by North Korean supreme leader Kim Jong-un in January 2021. He also hinted at the implication of the possibility of a future nuclear weapon.

How is this Different from the USA's Progress in Nuclear Weapon Technology?

The failure of the 2018 North Korea–United States Singapore Summit and the lack of clarity about denuclearisation by Kim Jong-un raises concern due to the precursory actions of the North Korean leader. Furthermore, this missile launch has strained the international relations between North Korea, South Korea and Japan. Simultaneously, there are also agitations as North Korea’s media accused USA for double standards in missile development.

Is it a Double Standard?

China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States are all regarded as nuclear powers by NPT (Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons). North Korea also used to accede to the treaty as of December 12, 1985, but officially withdrew on 10 January 2003 after the US alleged that “it had started an illegal enriched uranium weapons program”.

What is the Stance of South Korea?

Hours after the missile launch by North Korea, South Korea tested a submarine-launched ballistic missile. South Korea has become the first ever country to develop this level of machinery without access to nuclear technology. Reports show that the launch was already pre-planned and not retaliation. However, the testy waters surrounding the event are yet to be calm due to the lack of an update from any of the countries.

The latest update on September 18, concerning the situation explicated satellite images of what seems to be a uranium enrichment plant at North Korea's main Yongbyon nuclear complex. Experts assess that this is a clear sign that North Korea wants to develop its production of material resources for the constructions of bombs.

This article was written by Mridula Miraalini for The Paradigm.

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