As you all are aware of, North Korea is now in the center of the much-heated debates between the world powers who share a joint concern about the world’s security. The situation only got worse this year after Kim Jong-un, North Korea’s supreme leader claimed that they now have enough missile power to strike even a major city of the United States.
But, how capable North Korea really is in terms of using its own growing missile inventory if they decide to go all out war, how far can North Korean missiles go? Do you think this worldwide insecurity is justified or it’s just a typical case of media exaggeration? That’s what we are going to find out today.
First, for those who need to sharpen their geography skills just a little bit, here are some pointer that will help you to understand the geographical setting of the North Korea and its surrounding countries. Situated in East Asia, the Democratic Republic of North Korea or DPRK shares borders with both China and Russia along with 260 kilometer border with South Korea.
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From, Where it all Started
The Korean war was perhaps one of the deadliest post World-War conflicts in the entire world. Started almost half a century ago this deadly war was a direct result of the outcome of the Second World War and the Chinese Civil War. An armistice was signed between the two nations to prevent any other hostilities in this region of the world.
Even-though the Korean war lasted just for three years, tension near the border of these two countries continued over decades with cases of border infiltration, high profile abductions and assassination attempts. What separates these two countries is the heavily militarized region called the DMZ or the demilitarized zone.
The DMZ is without a doubt the most dangerous border region in the world. Also known as the 38th parallel, it runs across the entire Korean Peninsula dividing it into half. The entire zone is about 250 kilometers long and 4 kilometers wide, and just over 56 kilometers away from the South Korean capital Seoul.
As the matter of fact, it’s this close proximity that has kept South Korea on its toes and somewhat in fear over all these years and now it emerged as a serious international threat. But the question is — is this fear of the North Korean threat legitimate? Let’s find out.
From Pyongyang, the distance of Tokyo, the capital city of Japan is about 1,284 km, Beijing is 808 km, New Delhi is 4,573 km, Moscow is 6,4300 km and Washington DC is a staggering 11,000 km. It’s not that missiles care about distances and long journeys, it’s the level of technology that matters.
While world powers like France, UK and especially the United States, whom North Korea recognize as its utmost enemy, should have absolutely nothing to fear due to their own defense capabilities and an arsenal of missiles, but we should also keep in mind the magnitude of distance that the North Korean missiles have to travel.
The Missile Test
The news broke out on the 4th of July about a successful North Korean missile test over the Pacific and they claimed that it can now reach the American mainland. This news created a lot of fuss and tension as most Americans were celebrating their Independence day anniversary.
— Joseph Dempsey (@JosephHDempsey) July 4, 2017
But in North Korean, the atmosphere was totally different. Local news channels also declare the country is now more powerful than ever as they were already a nuclear state and now they have advanced intercontinental ballistic missile that can strike any place in the world. The missile which is causing the worldwide fuss is known as the Hwasong-14.
What we know about Hwasong 14 till now is entirely based on reports from the N.Korean media and there are no means to prove any of that.
The Hwasong-14 Missile
According to the North Korean state owned media, during its total 39 minutes of flight, the missile achieved a maximum altitude of 2,802 kilometres (9,193,000 ft) and traveled for 933 km or 580 miles. With this range, the missile isn’t going anywhere near the USA, but experts believe that the missile is actually capable of engaging any target at the distance of 8,500 km.
If that’s the case, then the entire American west coast comes almost under its radar. The city of Los Angeles lies about 9,300 km away from the Korean Peninsula, although Alaska and Hawaii are a much closer target. There are some uncertainty over the ability of the missile carrying a nuclear warhead, but the United States seems to be not taking any chances whatsoever, by immediately responding that they are ready for any kind of attack.
North Korean Firepower
Image Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons/Projection of estimated maximum range of some North Korean missiles
North Korea conducted its first nuclear test in 2006, three years after its withdrawal from the Nuclear Proliferation Treaty. In 2009, they again conducted an underground nuclear test, according to some estimations, this explosion was thrice as massive as the first one. The most recent test was carried out in January 2016, when it was detected by the USGS satellites.
As of now, North Korea is estimated to be in a possession of 20 nuclear bombs, but their launch capability is still in question. If the estimations of their newest ICBM are correct, then North Korean could not only launch a nuclear attack throughout Asia and USA but also in Europe, Australia. Many experts believe that North Korean bombs have half of the firepower than those which hit Hiroshima and Nagasaki during the World War II.
Moreover, North Korea also has some other long-range missiles which are believed to be in service like the Hwasong-13 or KN-08. Not much is known about the missile but it is estimated that the missile can target the entire Asian continent. In the midst of all the uncertainty, one thing is quite undeniable that North Korea has a good collection of Intermediate-range ballistic missiles, one such is the Hwasong-10 or Musudan, again, most of Asia and surrounding territories could be affected badly if this can carry nuclear warheads.
Similarly, Korean 2-3 stage ballistic missile Taepodong-2 with an alleged range of 6,400 km can mark most of the Europe. North Korea perhaps has a better stockpile of smaller missiles like Rodong-1. It’s largely believed that they obtained Russian Scud missiles from Egypt and China and reverse engineered them to produce their own medium-range missiles and one of them was the Rodong-1.
This year alone North Korea has test-fired 17 missiles with varied range. After coming to the power, president Kim Jong Un has sanctioned more missile test than anyone in the history of the country. So here we are, what do you think about the current situation in the East Asia?