March 25, 2020 13:31
The new ballistic missiles North Korea fired on Saturday was apparently an ATACMS type that is capable of decimating targets the size of three to four football fields. The North launched them in North Pyongan Province on its west coast and hit a target on an island in the East Sea on the other side of the Korean Peninsula. That shows that North Korea has gained confidence in the range and accuracy of its missiles and also suggests that field deployment is imminent.
North Korea also succeeded in firing a massive 600-mm multiple rocket launcher and launched its own version of a Russian Iskander-M precision-guided missile that can carry a conventional or nuclear warhead and evade interception. All three weapons are mounted on mobile launchers and capable of continuous fire. The MRL's reloading time has been shortened from 17 minutes to 20 seconds, while the ATACMS and Iskander are capable of being fired every one or two minutes. The maximum launch altitude has also decreased to 30 to 40 km, which means that Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense batteries cannot intercept them because they only work at an altitude of 40 km to 150 km, while the new Patriot-3 missiles will not be able to take them down if they pull up and ascend rapidly.
A North Korean MRL missile launched in Wonsan on March 2 flew 240 km at an altitude of just 30 km. If it had been aimed southwest, it could have hit U.S. military bases in Pyeongtaek. Another 30 km added to the range could target South Korea's airbase in Cheongju, which houses state-of-the-art F-35 stealth fighters. North Korean leader Kim Jong-un is afraid of the U.S. and South Korea's superior air force, and if the North fired new missiles with a maximum range of 400 km to 600 km from the border, all 10 of South Korea's air bases could be destroyed instantly. South Korea's ports, which would supply vital goods in a war, are also at risk. North Korea deploys four to six artillery pieces per missile base and an MRL can fire four missiles each, while ATACMS can fire two each. Just one artillery unit can fire up to 24 missiles at once, along with hundreds of bullets. South Korea is incapable of stopping a hail of North Korean missiles of all three types.
Any normal country would have come up with a response as soon as North Korea started the provocations last May. But there are still no signs of that here. Instead, the government is downplaying the North Korean threat. That is not "strategic patience," it is madness.
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