North Korea’s latest missile launches were not tests, they were instead military exercises — preparations for war.
North Korea fired four scud missiles into the Sea of Japan early Monday morning. The missiles, which were fired from a known missile base in the Tongchang-ri region, flew over 600 miles. Three of the ballistic projectiles came within 200 miles of Japan.
Last month, North Korea tested a new type of missile, a solid-fueled, road-mobile, mid-range ballistic missile. Monday’s launches were noticeably different in that the North was not testing new equipment.
The launch is believed to be in response to the annual Foal Eagle drills going on in South Korea.
“We have seen a shift in North Korea’s missile testing,” Jeffrey Lewis, a renowned weapons expert and the director of the East Asia Nonproliferation Program at the Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, told The Daily Caller News Foundation.
“These are not research and development tests, but rather military exercises,” he explained. “The U.S. and South Korea are practicing invading North Korea. North Korea is practicing nuking those forces.”
“They are testing the units that fire the missiles,” Lewis told CNN reporters, “This is the sort of behavior you see from a state that is planning to deploy nuclear weapons to its military units.”
He commented 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.”
The North Koreans are “warning the U.S. and South Koreans that they are not going to tolerate being pushed around by large intimidating exercises,” Josh Pollack, editor of the Nonproliferation Review, told CNN.
Also noteworthy is the simultaneous launch of multiple missiles, which may be training to overwhelm the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) anti-missile system scheduled for deployment on South Korean soil this year.
“Enough simultaneous launches could overwhelm the THAAD system and increase the risk of a nuclear-armed ballistic missile reaching its target in South Korea,” Kelsey Davenport, director of Nonproliferation Policy at the Arms Control Institute, told TheDCNF after North Korea launched three missiles at the same time last September.
The simultaneous launch of multiple missiles is “basic missile defense countermeasure,” Lewis told reporters.
“It’s just harder for something like THAAD to deal with four targets at once rather than one. If you plan to use a nuclear missile on a target in South Korea, you want to fire them all at the same time,” he added.
Accompanied by state officials, as well as rocket and nuclear scientists, Kim Jong-un oversaw the recent drill, which involved Hwasong artillery units of the Korean People’s Army Strategic Force. They were “tasked to strike the bases of the U.S. imperialist aggressor,” the North’s state-run Korean Central News Agency reported Tuesday.
The launch signaled that the North can also strike Japan, and the U.S. forces stationed there if necessary, KCNA asserted.
Noting that “an actual war may break out anytime,” the young dictator reportedly instructed the artillery units to “get fully ready to promptly move, take positions, and strike.”
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