Defying pressure from the international community, North Korea fired four anti-ship missiles last Thursday in what is believed to be a move by the rogue state to demonstrate the precision targeting of its rockets.
In a statement, South Korea’s joint chiefs confirmed that North Korea launched four missiles into the sea east of the Korean Peninsula, according to CNN. However, the missiles are believed to be surface-to-ship missiles, also known as warship-killing cruise missiles, and not ballistic missiles capable of carrying a much bigger payload.
It appears that North Korea’s firing of the four anti-ship cruise missiles is a demonstration of its weapons capability, that it can accurately target any ship veering too close to its territory. Fired from the eastern coastal city of Wonsan, the rockets landed in an area in the Sea of Japan where several U.S. Navy ships, including two aircraft carriers, patrolled just earlier this week.
“We assess that North Korea intended to show off its various missile capabilities, display its precise targeting capability, in the form of armed protests against ships in regard to US Navy carrier strike groups and joint naval drills,” South Korea’s Joint of Chiefs of Staff spokesman Roh Jae-cheon explains to the press.
The four North Korean ship-killing cruise missiles traveled approximately 200 kilometers from its launch site before hitting the waters, reports the Guardian. It was the same area in the Sea of Japan that was patrolled by the U.S. Navy aircraft carriers USS Ronald Reagan and USS Carl Vinson. The naval units were part of joint naval maneuvers with Japan and South Korean forces earlier this week.
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In a series of missile tests, North Korea has been aggressively developing its missile technology. Thursday’s missile launch is the tenth this year and the fourth this month. The nation previously carried out tests for short-range Scud class rockets, medium-to-long range missiles as well as a variety of ballistic missiles.
Just last month, North Korea fired a short-range Scud-class missile which drew protests from Tokyo. The projectile landed in an area in the sea that is part of Japan’s maritime economic zone.
The nation also tested a midrange missile last month said to be capable of carrying a nuclear warhead. It was noted that the missile flew higher and for a longer period than previous tests, perhaps an indication that the nation had made some considerable advancements in its missiles program.
Despite protests from its neighbors Japan and China, and the fresh sanctions imposed by the United Nations Security Council, North Korea has been adamantly pursuing the development of its missiles technology. The regime is touting that its rockets, equipped with precision guidance, are now capable of landing within seven meters of its target.
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North Korea insists that, as a sovereign state, it has the right to pursue its own nuclear and missile programs. The nation maintains that such weapons research is necessary to counter the United States’ aggression, citing the presence of the aircraft carriers near its waters earlier this week.
In addition, Pyongyong released a statement regarding the United States’ opposition to its missile tests revealing how it views Washington’s stance on the issue. According to the nation, it was “the height of shameless arrogance, self-righteousness, and double standards” considering that the U.S. is also in the middle of its own “military buildup.”
But the recent anti-ship missiles raises questions about safety concerns among the US Forces personnel especially Navy personnel that may be deployed near the rogue nation. Important questions such as can the tested North Korean missiles really take out an aircraft carrier?
According to an expert, they could potentially immobilize an aircraft carrier but only “if they got really lucky.” Former director of operations of the Joint Intelligence Center US Pacific Command and Hawaii Pacific University professor Carl Schuster implied that while it could be a possibility, chances of it happening are slim considering the numerous layers of defensive systems in place for a single carrier group. One weakness for cruise missiles is that they usually travel in straight lines as compared to a ballistic missile’s arched trajectory.
As far as the threat of North Korea successfully launching a nuclear ballistic missile on the U.S. mainland is concerned, the common consensus is that it will take Pyongyang at least three years to develop a working ICBM of sufficient range. A more pressing concern is the threat against the U.S. bases located in South Korea and Japan as the nation has already demonstrated missiles that could target those military assets.
To counter the threat, the United States and South Korea have started deploying the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (Thaad) system early this year. However, South Korea announced last Wednesday that it would suspend further Thaad deployments citing the need for additional evaluation of the environmental and health concerns posed by the system’s powerful radar.
[Featured Image by Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images]