North Korea successfully launched five missiles that have the potential to significantly increase the threat against US, South Korean, and Japanese ships operating around the Korean peninsula.
On Feb. 8, the North Korean military fired five missiles from the country’s eastern coast into the Sea of Japan. All five of the missile launches were successful, and the projectiles had a range of about 124 miles (200 kilometers), according to Victor Cha of the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
North Korea claims that the missiles are “ultra-precision anti-ship rocket[s].” Based on what’s known about their design, they were either provided by Russia reverse-engineered from Russian designs.
“Whether the North reverse-engineered the missiles, or they were supplied by the Russians, the integration of this into the North’s military would suggest a substantial upgrade in their threat to US, ROK, and Japanese ships in the area,” Cha writes.
The missiles represent an alarming new capability for the North Korean military. The missiles are quasi-ballistic and have the ability to change direction mid-flight, allowing for increased accuracy. Their increased range is also a cause for concern.
“That its missiles ranges are getting longer probably implies that the North might have USFK’s Camp Pyeongtaek and Osan Air Base in its inland shooting range,” Yang Uk, a senior researcher with the Korea Defence and Security Forum, told Stars and Stripes. “I think we’re going to need to be more careful about it.”
Due to the success of the launch, North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un has said he will deploy the missiles across North Korea’s Navy “before long.”
The missile can travel at high speeds meters above the water, making interception difficult. Due to their range and speed, the missiles add teeth to North Korea’s threats of developing its Navy. The projectiles, which bear significant similarities to Russian KH-35 missiles, also raise questions of how much Moscow may have helped Pyongyang develop this capability.
The Feb. 8 launch was the second missile launch that North Korea has conducted in 2015. The first launch was on Feb. 6.
The tests are a show of strength from North Korea as the US and South Korea are set to conduct annual bilateral military exercises in March. North Korea views these exercises as a form of aggression, according to Reuters.
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