Here’s What North Korea Was Actually Gunning For In Its Latest Missile Launches
North Korea recently practiced hitting a specific U.S. base in Japan, according to open-source intelligence analysis.
The Korean People’s Army fired four extended range scuds into the Sea of Japan early Monday morning (local time). The missiles were launched from a missile base in the Tongchang-ri region. The state-run Korean Central News Agency reported that “tasked to strike the bases of the U.S. imperialist aggressor forces in Japan.”
According to two renowned missile experts, the hypothetical target for this particular drill was U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni in Yamaguchi Prefecture.
North Korea released images of young North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un, who personally oversaw the recent drills, looking over a map. David Schmerler and Jeffrey Lewis of the Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies in Monterey determined the intended target was the Iwakuni airbase.
The map from Sunday shows that the missiles flew the same distance out to sea that they would have flown in an attack on Iwakuni.3/5 pic.twitter.com/GSl6R5P8FY
— Dave Schmerler (@DaveSchmerler) March 8, 2017
The missiles were fired in the direction of Misawa airbase in Aomori Prefecture, where the Air Force’s 35th Air Wing is stationed, but the base is a little outside the range of North Korea’s ER Scuds.
The missiles flew about 620 miles, putting the Iwakuni and Sasebo bases in range.
@ArmsControlWonk @DaveSchmerler this may help pic.twitter.com/ObshSGsmF9
— Alastair Gale (@AlastairGale) March 8, 2017
The Iwakumi base, the only airbase housing a squadron of forward-deployed Marine Corps F-35B Lighting II fighters, appears to be the more likely of the two potential targets. The focus of North Korea’s provocations is the joint Foal Eagle drill in South Korea.
North Korean diplomats called the exercises “the most undisguised nuclear war maneuvers,” and KCNA reported that North Korea’s artillerymen had a “burning desire to mercilessly retaliate against the warmongers going ahead with their joint war exercises” when they fired their missiles Monday morning.
F-35B stealth fighters from Iwakuni are expected to participate in the ongoing drill, military officials told Yonhap News Agency. The fighter will reportedly carry out ground attack maneuvers.
“The addition of the F-35B is meant to deliver a strong message to the North that they could be used against the rogue state in case of a conflict breaking out on the Korean Peninsula,” a military official told Yonhap reporters.
“The U.S. and South Korea are practicing invading North Korea. North Korea is practicing nuking those forces,” Lewis explained to The Daily Caller News Foundation. North Korea is sending the “message that now that they have nuclear weapons, on the first day of a war, they’re not going to sit. They’re going to use them,” he told CNN.
Monday’s launch “demonstrates that North Korea’s war plan is to engage in the large-scale use of nuclear weapons against U.S. forces in the region to ‘repel’ an invasion,” Lewis told the Japan Times.
Targeting Iwakuni could be a “way of letting us know they have the ability to hit U.S. bases in Japan that are likely to be used in a Korean contingency,” Euan Graham, director of the International Security Program at the Lowy Institute in Australia, told reporters.
North Korea has become increasingly brazen in recent years. The new U.S. administration is currently weighing its options, which range from military force to acceptance, to address the threat from North Korea.
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