A North Korean propaganda video shown on the 105th birthday of the grandfather of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un shows a missile striking a U.S. city, leaving people wondering how much of a threat the North Korean program is to the United States. Could North Korea hit the United States with a nuclear missile?
The video, shown during a concert by the North Korean State Merited Chorus, shows a missile being launched and flying across the Pacific Ocean. The scene changes to a group of missiles hitting cities on the West Coast of the United States. The short movie shows an image of the American flag and a cemetery, surrounded by flames. The video is just one of many that North Korea has been showing over the past several years. The movies are used to bolster the confidence of the citizens and act as saber rattling provocations, specifically against the United States.
The videos, simulations made with animation and computer graphics, have raised concerns about the possibility of North Korea to launch a successful missile attack against the United States. The answer seems to be a strong “maybe.” Philip E. Coyle, a former assistant secretary of defense, said residents of the West Coast should consider the possibility of a North Korean missile strike as a “Looming threat, not a current threat.”
In military parades during 2012 and 2013, the North Koreans exhibited the Hwasong-13 missile. The missile has a possible range of 7,150 miles. San Francisco is only 5,500 miles from North Korea. However, mileage isn’t the only factor for long-range weapons. They have to be durable enough to leave and re-enter the atmosphere intact, and guidance systems and motors need to guide the missile to the target accurately. All the while, the missiles have to avoid being struck by U.S. anti-missile technology. Excerpts of the video can be seen in the video which documents various portions of the entire celebration.
However, one factor that experts are quick to point out is we don’t know how effective any of the North Korean missiles are because they have never tested them. The actual effectiveness of the Hwasong-13, also known as the KN-08, is a mystery to everybody.
The problem with gauging North Korea’s military capability is getting accurate information about the country. The government is secretive and isn’t even open with China, a long-time ally. Most information is gained via South Korean intelligence services, but they have found intelligence gathering to be difficult under the relatively new dictator.
In an interview with the New York Times, an American intelligence official said South Korean Intelligence agencies find it difficult to insert agents into the country. The intelligence and police services in North Korea are brutal, and according to the official, “very good at scouting human spies, and finishing them off fast.”
This lack of information about the North Korean military means that much of our information is based on assumptions. Today, it is assumed the North Koreans can strike the United States. James R. Clapper, Jr., a national director of intelligence under the Obama administration, told the Council on Foreign Relations the North Koreans could strike the U.S. with a missile.
“We ascribe to them the capability to launch a missile that would have a weapon on it to reach parts of the United States, certainly including Alaska and Hawaii.”
The propaganda video shouldn’t be taken too seriously by the public because it is, after all, propaganda. This wasn’t the first time the North Koreans made a video about striking the United States. In 2013, they made another video showing missiles hitting the East Coast, Colorado, and the West Coast. Again, in 2016, they produced another video called “Last Chance.” This depicted a nuclear strike on Washington, D.C., complete with a mushroom cloud and a burning U.S. flag.
The Obama administration took a stance called “strategic patience” towards North Korea. The hope was the pressure from economic sanctions, and the international community would force the North Koreans to abandon their nuclear program. The policy was ineffective, and President Trump has been more vocal in his opposition to the dictator, sending Secretary of State Tillerson and Vice President Pence to the region to visit troops and confer with South Korean officials.
[Featured Image by Wong Maye-E/AP Images]