|AP Photo/Kyodo News|
Madison Ruppert, Contributor
If the headline seemed a little bit awkward to you that is likely because it is. Indeed, North Korea allegedly might have a missile which is capable of delivering a payload to the continental United States.
The key word there is might, as analysts do not even know if what they observe in satellite imagery is a real missile or “a life-size mock-up,” meaning, that they really have no idea what they’re talking about.
Personally, I wouldn’t be surprised if it was nothing more than a mock-up seeing as North Korea has been full of empty threats for quite a while now.
Indeed, South Korea’s Chosunilbo reports that an unnamed South Korean official said that American reconnaissance satellites have supposedly found a 40 meter (around 130 feet) long missile at a research and development facility in Pyongyang.
Reconnaissance satellites have identified what appears to be evidence of advanced preparations for a missile launch at the Sohae Satellite Launching Station, also known as the Tongchang-dong Space Launch Center, which shows that they have made more extensive preparations than previously believed, according to 38 North, which is a project of the U.S.-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies.
Additional images were captured by the Israeli EROS-B satellite and analyzed by Defense Update.
Officials in the United States, South Korea and Japan are under the impression that the launch is, in fact, a covert missile test instead of an effort to launch a satellite.
Regardless of the intent (Pyongyang insists is for “peaceful purposes”) it will breach U.N. Security Council resolutions and has already resulted in Washington suspending sending food aid to North Korea.
According to the British Telegraph, analysts have estimated that the mysterious alleged weapon is around 130 feet in length with a powerful booster unit and capability of traveling over 6,200 miles.
However, this seems to be almost entirely speculation, as the actual language in the original report emphasizes that they do not actually know the maximum range of the new missile (which might not even be real).
In fact, they can only manage to state that, “The new missile is believed to be larger and equipped with a bigger booster that gives it a maximum range of more than 10,000 km, making it capable of reaching the continental U.S.,” which is hardly compelling.
Analysis of the rocket which is already being prepared for launch shows that it is 105 feet in length (which is exactly the same as the Taepodong-2 missile tested in April of 2009) with a range of 4,163 miles, making it the most powerful North Korean missile currently.
Anonymous officials in South Korea and the United States stated that they believe North Korea will unveil the new weapon either at the April 15 military parade marking the 100th anniversary of the birthday of Kim Il-Sung, the founder of North Korea, or on April 25, which is the anniversary of the founding of the North Korean army.
Japan is already taking the supposed threat of the planned satellite launch quite seriously, evidenced by their move to deploy 450 troops Ishigaki, a southern island, where they will man Patriot Advanced Capability-3 interceptor missiles.
They have also reportedly begun to deploy the Patriot interceptor missiles in Tokyo as well as the Okinawa and Miyako islands, in addition to helicopter rescue units which will deployed in case rocket debris hits Japanese territory.
They are also deploying three cutting edge Aegis warships to the East China Sea and the Sea of Japan, where they will be accompanied by F-15 fighter jets, to monitor the launch.
South Korea has already warned that they would shoot down the North Korean rocket if it so much as passes over their territory.
“We are studying measures such as tracking and shooting down [parts] of a North Korean missile in case they stray out of their normal trajectory,” Yoon Won-shik, a South Korean Defense Ministry spokesperson said.
According to the Boston Globe, South Korean media has recently reported multiple short-range missile tests off of their west coast.
North Korea supposed launched two KN-01 short-range surface-to-ship missiles on both Wednesday and Thursday, according to South Korean newspapers who cited anonymous military sources.
The South Korean Office of Joint Chiefs of Staff refused to confirm the reports, pointing to their policy of not commenting on intelligence issues.
The highly contentious launch is expected to occur between April 12 and April 16, and it remains to be seen if this new missile even exists and if so when they will unveil it.
If North Korea indeed had such a capability, I see no reason why they would unveil it at such an early stage as it would do nothing but turn the international community against them even further.
Furthermore, it would likely mean that food aid to the North would not resume. In other words, it would make absolutely no sense for North Korea to show off such a weapon (if they even actually had it), even as a supposed deterrent.
This could very well be pure disinformation intended to subtly sway the opinion of the international community ahead of the missile launch and possible actions from Japan and/or South Korea.