June 23, 2016 13:09
North Korea succeeded in test-firing a Musudan intermediate-range ballistic missile on Wednesday. Five previous tests since April went wrong, but the latest success suggests that the isolated country has made some technological progress and may soon be able to target the U.S. military base in Guam.
The most remarkable aspect was not how far the missile flew -- a mere 400 km -- but how high it soared into the sky -- over 1,000 km. That suggests the main aim was to test the heat-resistance of the warhead on re-entry into the atmosphere.
The Musudan theoretically has a range of between 3,000 to 4,000 km. North Korea's Scud and Rodong missiles can already hit anywhere in South Korea and Japan, but now the U.S.' Guam base is also within reach. Along with a submarine-launched ballistic missile, Pyongyang is also developing an intercontinental ballistic missile that can hit the mainland U.S.
And all this development and testing has been taking place under tight international sanctions, which have signally failed to slow the regime down. It seems leader Kim Jong-un is desperate for a bargaining chip in direct negotiations with the U.S.
Seoul decided to take the issue to the UN Security Council. But there is no guarantee that the crisis will end any time soon. Easing sanctions on the North would only make matters worse, and China must be persuaded to stay on board at all cost.
In these circumstances it is astonishing that none of the political parties here have uttered a word in condemnation of the test. The stock market calmly closed slightly higher than the day before amid forecasts that the faraway U.K will remain in the EU, and people simply went about their business as if nothing had happened. This numbness to real and present danger is perhaps even more terrifying.
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