March 30, 2017 11:25
The short-term objective of North Korea's frantic missile development is to prevent U.S. troop and weapons reinforcements from reaching the Korean Peninsula in the event of war, analysis suggests.
North Korea launched 46 missiles since leader Kim Jong-un came to power in 2012, often at high angles or in groups.
The Chosun Ilbo on Wednesday asked military sources and experts to analyze the launches, and they concluded that while the long-term goal is to develop intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of striking targets on the U.S. mainland, the immediate targets are closer to home.
The experts said the North seems to have developed the capability to deliver a "significant blow" to U.S. troop and weapons reinforcements. If they are unable to reach the peninsula in the event of a war between North and South, proper defensive maneuvers will be extremely difficult to carry out, to say nothing of reprisal attacks.
The North is developing the technology to deliver precision strikes on its intended targets rather than showering the South with missiles.
Out of the 46 missiles North Korea has launched so far, 30 were Musudan with a range of 3,500 km, Rodong with a range of 1,300 km, Scud ER with a range of 1,000 km, and Pukguksong with a range of 2,500 km. That means 65 percent are probably intended to strike U.S. troop and weapons reinforcements in Japan and Guam.
The 16 Scud C missiles with a range of 500 km the North has launched are believed to target Busan and other ports and airports in the South.
Kim Yeol-soo at Sungshin Women's University said, "When North Korea launched the Scud and Rodong missiles in Hwangju last July, a photo showed Kim Jong-un poring over a map with curved lines indicating that Busan is within the range of the missiles."
Yang Wook of the Korea Defense and Security Forum said, "The launch of Rodong missiles at a high angle is probably supposed to publicize its ability to strike Busan, where the reinforcements would arrive."
Firing the missile at a high angle increases the speed of the projectile's descent, making it impossible for South Korea’s current weapons to intercept them.
The new Pukguksong-2 solid-fuel missiles North Korea launched in February, which have an estimated range of 2,500 to 3,000 km, and four Scud ER missiles the North launched simultaneously on March 6 appear intended to strike U.S. military bases in Japan. North Korea admitted on March 7 that it was practicing to hit them.
Shin Won-shik, a former officer with the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said, "North Korea puts higher priority on targeting U.S. troops and weapons stationed in Japan or Guam, which will arrive on the Korean Peninsula sooner than forces on the U.S. mainland. If the North fully utilizes its missile capacity, U.S. reinforcements could receive a fatal blow."
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