Next North Korea test could hit waters near US mainland: experts

Pyongyang ‘will not yield to international pressure’

North Korea has yet again launched a ballistic missile over Japan, demonstrating a range that is capable of reaching the U.S. territory of Guam in the Asia-Pacific. But experts warn that Pyongyang’s provocations could soon escalate to threatening the U.S. mainland itself, report Nikkei Asian Review.

This is the 15th North Korean missile test this year and the first to come after Pyongyang tested its most powerful nuclear bomb yet.

Commenting on Korea’s latest missile test, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said, “China and Russia must indicate their intolerance for these reckless launches by taking direct actions of their own.”

It comes just days after the United Nations Security Council again passed sanctions on Pyongyang. Over the past week, North Korea had been warning about “retaliation” for these sanctions in its state media.

Also read: Most Americans ‘cannot find North Korea on a map’; What game theory tells us about Kim Jong-un

IT was a less-than-subtle protest at the United Nations Security Council’s decision to impose its toughest set of sanctions yet on the regime, wrote Nikkei Asian Review.

Experts warn that further acts of defiance are to be expected, and the Kim Jong Un regime could even go as far as test-firing a missile potentially threatening the U.S. mainland.

“The latest launch was aimed at showing its ability to hit the waters off Guam, and to prove this is not just intimidation,” said Yang Moo-jin, professor at Kyungnam University in Changwon, South Korea.

Repeated condemnation from the international community was not enough to deter Pyongyang from the launch, which comes less than two weeks after its sixth and most powerful nuclear test on Sept. 3, when the regime declared it had successfully detonated a hydrogen bomb capable of being loaded onto an intercontinental ballistic missile.

If the claims are to be believed, the regime has now fired a missile that could conceivably have carried a nuclear weapon.

Moreover, the missile fired Friday is believed to have flown 3,700km, a distance that would put Guam well within reach. The U.S. territory has been the subject of recent North Korean threats.

“North Korea will probably continue its provocations unless dialogue with the South or the U.S. begin,” Yang said. “It is also possible that the country will conduct a longer-range test with the intention of threatening Hawaii or the U.S. mainland.”

Pyongyang appears to be signaling that it has every intention of pressing ahead with its nuclear and missile program, even if that means direct confrontation with Washington.

“North Korea will not yield to international pressure, regardless of the strength of the sanctions,” said Atsuhito Isozaki, an associate professor at Tokyo’s Keio University, noting that the regime went ahead with the test despite the latest sanctions being watered down from the initial draft proposed by the U.S.

“The country’s recent claim that it is approaching the final stages [of its nuclear development] could be a sign that it will at some point explicitly ask the U.S. to start negotiations unconditionally in the belief that it would be doing so on an equal footing.”

Action, reaction

The U.N. resolution adopted on Monday added textiles to the list of banned export items from North Korea, for the first time, imposed restrictions on supplies of crude oil to the country.

Pyongyang’s reaction comes as no surprise. The North Korean Foreign Ministry had indicated its readiness to push back, and the U.S., Japan and South Korea were already on high alert. By Thursday, signs had been detected that the regime was preparing to fire a liquid-propellant missile.

Friday’s launch is just the latest in a series of provocations. On Aug. 26, the country launched three short-range missiles toward the Sea of Japan after a month of relative calm. Three days later, it fired what was most likely a Hwasong-12 midrange missile over Hokkaido, Japan’s northernmost main island, into the Pacific — a similar trajectory to the missile fired on Friday.

At the time, the North Korean leader suggested more missiles would be fired into the Pacific. He was also quoted as saying that his government would “watch the U.S. demeanor as already declared and decide its future action according to them.”

After the events of this week, tensions on the Korean Peninsula look set to rise even further.

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