North Korea Launches a Missile, and Trump Tweets

North Korea launched another long-range missile. The missile wonks on Twitter are trying to figure out the range, but as I write this, not all the numbers are available yet. If you like to see this kind of thing worked out in real time, follow

and others whom they retweet.

Not to be outdone, Our President has added his strategic thinking.

I prefer to screenshot his tweets because sometimes he deletes them and because I don’t want to give him the clicks.

There is always so much to unpack in a Trump tweet. He seems to be recapitulating what he’s said before: that it’s up to South Korea, Japan, and China to deal with North Korea. Why don’t you guys fight? No strategic thinking, and actively dangerous for a president to be goading other countries.

Update: Here’s a thread with a much more extensive commentary on Trump’s tweets.

76 replies
  1. 1
    Chrisotpher Hades says:

    The fact that there are no good options with North Korea makes it even more unstable and concerning.

  2. 2
    Trentrunner says:

    Once we start pulling hundreds of corpses from the rubble or from the water or from the ashes, we will look back on these days and know we had plenty of goddamn warning.

  3. 3
    Christopher Hades says:

    Let’s be honest. How much longer can the world go on with this whole NK thing being so unstable. There are no good options with dealing with them. So how do things like this end?

    IDK, what do you guys think?

  4. 4
    jl says:

    Thanks for link to Rosenberger’s tweets.
    Hard to believe that the Japanese or new leader of SK would take Trump tweets seriously, except as bad news that could get them in very deep shit.
    But I agree, not wise to broadcast dipshittery to Kim Jong Un.

  5. 5
    Michael U. says:

    Cheryl Rofer, it is the strangest thing, reading this blog since before John Cole became a Democrat and now to see you posting my partner’s (Melissa Hanham) twitter feed as someone to follow here.

  6. 6
    efgoldman says:

    I still say the same thing I said before the inauguration: He can’t find any of those countries on a map, except maybe China. That’s a big enough one.
    It bothers me, a lot, that my ACTUAL 4 y o granddaughter has an erasable-marker world map on her bedroom wall, and she probably can find and identify as many countries as “the president”

  7. 7
    O. Felix Culpa says:

    Sigh. There he goes again. Trigger Warning: St. Ronulus gif –
    https://youtu.be/bRmtpau8sOU

    And yes, dangerous. He’s careening around too many precipices for comfort.

  8. 8
    jl says:

    @jl: I assume Kim Jong Un was the ‘guy’ Trump was referring to. Has some ‘last guy in the room’ explained North Korea and who the ‘guys’ are who have run it to Trump yet. He probably should learn the names sooner or later.

  9. 9
    sdhays says:

    Trump is such a weak, pathetic loser. I really hope his end lives up to the humiliation he is richly owed…

  10. 10
    Cheryl Rofer says:

    Trump is also the guy who says he doesn’t want anyone to know what he’s thinking. In that case, it might be wise to avoid broadcasting his first impulsive thoughts to the world.

  11. 11
    Christopher Hades says:

    @Cheryl Rofer: That’s the thing, he’s to stupid to even know what HIMSELF is doing.

  12. 12
    efgoldman says:

    @Cheryl Rofer:

    Trump is also the guy who says he doesn’t want anyone to know what he’s thinking.

    “Trump” and “thinking” should never be in the same sentence, paragraph, or essay. There is no such thing in the known universe, nor in any parallel universe.

  13. 13

    And as bad as these tweets are, he obviously did not write them himself. This is from someone smarter in his staff. Bannon?

  14. 14
    Kraux Pas says:

    @Cheryl Rofer:

    Trump is also the guy who says he doesn’t want anyone to know what he’s thinking.

    The concept of “nothing” is more (or less?) than the human brain can handle.

  15. 15
    efgoldman says:

    @Frankensteinbeck:

    This is from someone smarter in his staff. Bannon?

    You misspelled “Barron”, the one who does the cyber.

  16. 16

    Yeah, why doesn’t Japan do something with their mighty offensive military to try and put pressure on North Korea?

  17. 17
    Cheryl Rofer says:

    Preliminary data looks like a successful test of an ICBM.

    The only real option is to try to engage North Korea in talks to freeze their nuclear program. China does not want to push too hard on North Korea, because they don’t want a failed state and millions of refugees on their doorstep. Expecting South Korea and Japan to take care of it is the same as telling them to develop nuclear weapons.

    One of the things North Korea wants very badly is a peace treaty to end the Korean War. Yes, that war, from the early 1950s. There is a truce, but no peace treaty has ever been signed. That might not be the place to start (although I tend to like bold moves where possible), but it needs to be part of the negotiations.

    But it’s clear that Donald Trump has no plan. All he knows is bluster and bullying, and Kim Jong Un and the North Korean propaganda apparatus can beat him at that, hands down.

  18. 18
    Another Scott says:

    SCMP:

    The missile flew 930km, South Korea’s joint chiefs of staff said, before it landed near Japan’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).

    The Japanese government said that it had strongly protested what was a clear violation of UN resolutions.

    The missile was launched around 8:40 am Hong Kong time from an airfield in Panghyon, about 100 km northwest of the North’s capital, Pyongyang, the South Korean military said.

    Its estimated flight time was about 40 minutes.

    […]

    Shea Cotton, a researcher at the James Martin Centre for Nonproliferation Studies in the US, suggested Tuesday’s launch was deliberately timed to coincide with the anniversary of the US declaration of independence.

    “It’s already 4th of July in North Korea,” he said on Twitter.

    “I somewhat suspect they’re shooting off some fireworks today specifically because of that.”

    […]

    They know Donnie’s buttons and are going to keep pushing them…

    Cheers,
    Scott.

  19. 19
    Cheryl Rofer says:

    @Frankensteinbeck: I don’t know about that. They sound like things he has said. Aides help him tweet, so they may have made the language a bit more coherent, but I’ll bet this is what he wanted to say.

  20. 20
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @Frankensteinbeck: Or Stephen Miller, who is a pathetic Nazi twat.

  21. 21
    randy khan says:

    Screwing up North Korea is the scenario that worries me most because they have nukes and a paranoid leader and they don’t really understand us well.

  22. 22
    Cheryl Rofer says:

    BTW, this is an excellent briefing paper for Trump’s meeting with Putin from Michael McFaul, a former US Ambassador to Russia.

    And I will anticipate efgoldman’s admonition that the words “read” and “Trump” should not appear in the same sentence. 😀

  23. 23
    Cheryl Rofer says:

    @Another Scott:

    Shea Cotton, a researcher at the James Martin Centre for Nonproliferation Studies in the US

    Another good Twitter follow for figuring out the missile launches. @Shea_Cotton
    No relation to Tom, as far as I’m aware.

  24. 24
    Cheryl Rofer says:

  25. 25
    Cheryl Rofer says:

    This is the thought I just had too. Happy Fourth, everyone!

  26. 26
    efgoldman says:

    @Cheryl Rofer:

    But it’s clear that Donald Trump has no plan. All he knows is bluster and bullying

    And every single person on the face of the planet, including half his voters, know it.

  27. 27
    efgoldman says:

    @Cheryl Rofer:

    I will anticipate efgoldman’s admonition that the words “read” and “Trump” should not appear in the same sentence.

    :::sniffle::: You don’t need me any more.

  28. 28
    Another Scott says:

    @randy khan: It’s good to be worried about NK, but I wouldn’t be at all surprised if they’re still deep in the research stage and not close to actually having systems that they would trust enough to actually use. 930 km isn’t what I would call “intercontinental”, myself.

    Similarly, Pakistan and India’s nuclear tests had puny yields (< 10 kT IIRC). Yes, even something that "small" could do tremendous damage, but none of the three have shown that they can deliver such a payload via a missile (underground tests are very different from actually putting something workable on a missile). They've not continued to have tests of bombs or missiles (AFAIK) because strategic ambiguity is more powerful than demonstrated failures. They want them for deterrence.

    NK's nuclear program only works for them as a deterrent. Their missile program gets attention because it's flashy (and because a weapon needs a delivery system), but if they actually try to use it, it will mean total destruction of their leadership and their country. These puddle-jumper tests, and their continued failure to have successful longer-range tests, are making them look less dangerous to the US in these eyes. But it keeps Kim and NK in the forefront of US thinking, and that is a win for him. And as such, Trump’s desire to force a quick resolution is more likely to cause a flare-up in the region while keeping the US relatively safe (except for our troops in the area). And forcing SK, Japan, and others in the region to choose between finding ways to reduce tensions with NK or following the belligerent and counter-productive Trump line weakens us as well.

    IOW, yes we want Kim to stop his nuclear and missile programs. But we’re not going to get him to do so by demanding total capitulation before talks even start. Continuing to yell at him, and blaming China for not doing enough, just encourages him to accelerate those programs even more, while driving our traditional allies (and the rest of the world) away from us.

    Finally, my understanding is that NK wants a peace treaty for one big reason – to get the USA to leave. While a peace treaty should have been concluded long, long ago, if they will only accept one if the USA leaves, then I don’t know how we (or SK) could accept such a thing (but I’m no expert).

    My $0.02.

    Cheers,
    Scott.

  29. 29
    rikyrah says:

    Lawd have mercy

  30. 30

    @Cheryl Rofer: Who knew there were arms control wonks in Glendale(Montrose and most of La Crescenta is in Glendale).

  31. 31
    Gravenstone says:

    @jl: I should think those leaders do indeed take Trump’s tweets seriously. Unfortunately what they’re seeing in them is, ‘you’re on your own, suckers!’.

  32. 32
    West of the Rockies (been a while) says:

    @Another Scott:

    I always welcome your observations, Scott. They are erudite and focused. That’s my two cents.

  33. 33
    John Weiss says:

    Don’t mean to be rude. What do you mean “there’s a lot to unpack from a Trump tweet”? There is nothing to unpack. What you see is what you get. What’s to “unpack” from the missives from a shallow and vain person?

  34. 34
    Bupalos says:

    @Frankensteinbeck: I’m going to tentatively agree, not because they aren’t bone stupid enough, but I can’t see trump phrasing it quite that way. “Put a heavy move” is weird but overall the tweet is better costructed than usual. Maybe he took some of his meds.

  35. 35
    Mnemosyne says:

    @🐾BillinGlendaleCA:

    Hello, where is JPL? Silly boy.

  36. 36
    bago says:

    Genunie Trump. He thread his tweets with dot dot dot dot dot, dot dot dot.

  37. 37

    @Bupalos:
    Someone earlier suggested that maybe he let an assistant type it, which is why it’s phrased coherently. I could see that. Maybe he can’t type because he has an owie on his boo-boo.

  38. 38
    sharl says:

    Jeffrey Lewis‏ @ArmsControlWonk

    That’s it. It’s an ICBM. (link)

    Reuters World‏ @ReutersWorld

    MORE: North Korea ballistic missile “greatly exceeded” altitude of 2,500 km – Japan defense ministry

    Tom Nichols‏ @RadioFreeTom

    NK testing an actual ICBM is a political challenge. It does not change the strategic picture overnight. Remain calm, folks. (link)

  39. 39
    GregB says:

    @Bupalos:

    He may have been inspired by Chris Christie’s beach attire.

  40. 40
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @Bupalos: “Put a heavy move” is a direct lifting from the lingo of professional wrestling.

    That’s how inane Donald is.

  41. 41
    jl says:

    @Villago Delenda Est: The Atomic Drop is a good old fashioned pro wrestling move. I don’t remember what it is. Never a pro wrestling fan. But for some reason, I remember an announcer saying, when I was a tyke and that stuff was on the TV: OHHHH NOOH! He’s going for the…. ATAWHMIC DRAHWP!!!!

    So. pro wrestling talk doesn’t comfort me at all.

    Edit: though, in pro wrestling, nothing matches the horror of a tag team piledriver, IIRC. Maybe if China and US team up to tag team NK, Trump figures we’ll try that first.

  42. 42
    NotMax says:

    @Bupalos

    They might be described as a modified limited hang-out.

    NIXON: You think, you think we want to, want to go this route now? And the — let it hang out, so to speak? DEAN: Well, it’s, it isn’t really that —
    HALDEMAN: It’s a limited hang out.
    DEAN: It’s a limited hang out.
    EHRLICHMAN: It’s a modified limited hang out.
    NIXON: Well, it’s only the questions of the thing hanging out publicly or privately.

  43. 43
    jl says:

    @NotMax: With Trump, the thing hanging out publicly is scary and disgusting enough. We don’t need to be reminded of anything else.

  44. 44
    Mike in DC says:

    Miniaturization of the nuke is step 2, presumably. Step 1, they have an ICBM with a re-entry capsule that can survive. Step 3 would be development of a targeting and guidance system that will put the warhead in the same area code as the intended target.

  45. 45
    Mai.naem.mobile says:

    I know this sounds dumb and flip but why haven’t we ever just assassinated Kim Jong or the dad . All the stories we heard about the CIA trying to kill Fidel Castro and Kim Jong sounds so much more dangerous,not to mention the cruelty towards North Koreans.

  46. 46
    RealityBites says:

    They put the bomb in a cargo container with a detonator triggered by GPS readings and ship it to a large port – say – Los Angeles- on one of the many thousands of cargo container ships that enter our ports every year. Boom! And how to prove who did it? So if they REALLY wanted to nuke us…..? Why take years to develop technology that would get them wiped off the face of the earth if they ever used it?

  47. 47
    jl says:

    @Mai.naem.mobile: The infernal NK system would lurch, assassination or no.

  48. 48
    Amir Khalid says:

    @Mai.naem.mobile:
    Take Jong Un out, and who gets in? He’s been ruthless about hunting down anyone with a chance, however remote, of toppling or succeeding him. I don’t think anyone in the US national security apparatus has a clear idea who might succeed him, or what kind of crazy the successor might bring in.

  49. 49

    @RealityBites: North Korea doesn’t ship things to America, I doubt China would play along with this, and a GPS trigger isn’t even as easy as you might think… just off the top of my head. There are logistical issues.

    Also, we’d know who the nuke came from and they’d be wiped off the face of the earth anyway.

  50. 50
    Keith P. says:

    So foreign policy has gone from “Let Jared take care of it” to “Perhaps some other country take care of it”?

  51. 51
    gene108 says:

    @Cheryl Rofer:

    diplomacy is not a popularity contest —

    SNIP

    Your task is to demonstrate to Putin that you are a tough negotiator committed to pursuing American interests, and one that is not willing to offer concessions simply to win Putin’s praise.

    From your link.

    Dumbass does not understand his audience. Everything to the shitgibbon is a contest, especially a popularity contest. Plus he craved approval from Putin.

    He should’ve said “you will be big league popular, if you tell Putin ‘no’ on giving him stuff and to ‘cut the crap’ in Ukraine.” Beyond that you will go over the orange odious man baby’s head.

    ************************************

    Read through the Twitter thread you posted. Trump supporters live in an alternate universe, where Obama made a mess, at best, and at worst ran some sort of criminal enterprise, and Sonnie has to clean it up, which he is working hard at doing.

  52. 52
    gene108 says:

    @Amir Khalid:

    Better alternative would be to pay top leadership money to step down and relocate them to a nicer country than North Korea.

    I am talking billions of US dollars here. So much neither they nor their kids would ever work again, then go in and start working on Korean reunification.

    I think it would work better than assassination.

    But it is naive.

    Dictators aren’t in it solely for the money. Their egos are so big, they need to have that kind of power over life and death.

  53. 53
    Morzer says:

    I don’t think the people who study this region have been in denial about North Korea’s ambitions and their strategic rationale for acquiring nuclear weapons and ultimately the capability of projecting them onto the US mainland as a deterrent. What seems to have been lacking is a realistic awareness that it is effectively impossible to stop North Korea from achieving its goals- unless China abandons the core precepts of its strategy as far as the Korean peninsula is concerned, or unless the US is prepared to embark on a course of military action that will devastate a key East Asian ally (possibly two) and be extremely expensive in terms of lives, material and money (not to speak of the consequences for the global economy). A more realistic approach would be to accept that North Korea is going to have this intercontinental nuclear capability in the near future and ask what follows from that diplomatically, economically and strategically. I don’t know whether the US, as a society, is capable of handling this imminent reality in any constructive way. I am sure that the Trump junta currently has no plans beyond bluster and threats and blaming Obama. What happens if the Tangerine Scream decides to embark on some sort of military adventure to demonstrate “strength”?

  54. 54
    Morzer says:

    @gene108:

    What would be your offer to China? Why would China accept the loss of a key buffer against US influence in the region? One thing that is clear about this whole ball of wax is that Beijing absolutely does not want to see a unified Korean peninsula dominated by the US. Maybe the Kim clan would accept exile and ridiculous amounts of wealth ( although I doubt that they would trust anyone else that far), but I can’t see what the US can offer China, short of complete withdrawal from and de-militarization of the Korean peninsula, plus a fairly hefty round of economic and diplomatic sweeteners. Even then, the Chinese might well not see this as anything like a guaranteed long-term outcome, especially coming from Trump of all people.

  55. 55
    gene108 says:

    @Another Scott:

    The Indian space program routinely launches satellites into orbit and has a satellite orbiting Mars, which it built and launched.

    I think, if they wanted to reconfigure their satellite launch rockets to fit a warhead, they could.

  56. 56
    sharl says:

    Nuke wonk Jeffrey Lewis stayed up a few hours beyond what he had originally planned, per the tweet embedded in Cheryl’s comment:

    Jeffrey Lewis‏ @ArmsControlWonk

    Ok, now I really do need to sleep. But I’ll leave you my June 12 column on what the ICBM test means.

    North Korea Is About to Test a Missile That Can Reach Trump Tower: Is the U.S. president ready to put some muscle behind his tough talk?*

    4:08 AM – 4 Jul 2017 from La Crescenta-Montrose, CA

    It doesn’t sound like DPRK can reach NYC with their missiles for now, but that article was otherwise fairly prescient about what just went down.

    * By the way, the link goes to Foreign Policy magazine – if you click on it, you may find yourself paywalled and/or sent to a subscription pop-up. (I got lucky this time; it’s been hit-or-miss for me.)

  57. 57
    gene108 says:

    @Morzer:

    Not really thought it out. Just thinking, if you wanted a leadership change in North Korea, bribery would be more likely to lead to a desired outcome than assassination.

  58. 58
    Morzer says:

    @gene108:

    Yes, but I don’t think either approach will achieve anything unless some sort of bargain is made with China. What’s hard to imagine is that the US can give China anything like enough compensation for abandoning a key satellite and risking a flood of North Korean refugees across the border. Then there’s the complication that both the US and China have been feeding the broad masses a diet of nationalistic propaganda selling themselves both as strong and as victims. Neither regime can really afford to back down publicly, which makes diplomacy of any sort very hard to achieve or to sell.

  59. 59
    Amir Khalid says:

    @gene108:
    Offer North Korea’s royal/presidential family a pension and a nice retirement home? No one with that kind of power would willingly give it up for a pension. It would have to be an offer they were in no position to refuse. You’d still need to remove them from power first, and that would have to be done with force.

  60. 60
    mai naem mobile says:

    @Amir Khalid: I have no idea. I don’t clain to know crap about NK beyond the leader is a nut job and the people are starving. I just don’t see this ending well for North Koreans whatever crappy option you pick. This isn’t Iraq which was a financially okay dictatorship. While it is not the same its probably closest to East Germany except that the North Koreans have way more to gain than the East Germans.

  61. 61
    Gvg says:

    @Mai.naem.mobile: note that we never managed to assassinate Castro. It’s not all that easy and we have less ability to penetrate North Korea than Cuba. We also have an admitted poor idea of what would happen next. We have killed other problem leaders and it mostly hasn’t worked out for us. Refraining from using that tool is actually smarter than I would expect. Hope Trump doesn’t give those orders or think of it.
    The society that produced the Kim’s would probably plug in another like them if we did assassinate him based on my reading of history.
    What we need to be doing is working out with China a plan to deal with the refugees. They are inevitable someday I think.

  62. 62
    Cheryl Rofer says:

    @Another Scott gets this pretty much right. A while back, I realized that it’s possible to estimate the amount of fissile material North Korea has and then divide that by an amount that might be necessary for a bomb and get an estimate of the number of bombs they might have. But they are in very early stages and don’t have a lot of fissile material. So it’s unlikely that all that material is in the form of bombs. I wrote that up in more detail. The same sort of reasoning goes for his missiles, and it’s not clear that their bomb design fits on a missile.

    I haven’t fully read the overnight analysis, but it looks like Kim’s rocket scientists have put some stuff together for a sorta kinda ICBM with enough range to hit Alaska. I agree with Another Scott that his arsenal is probably defensive, but Kim is as much a blusterer as Trump, and it’s hard to rule out a first strike if he feels threatened enough. And then we have no idea what the Blusterer-In-Chief will do.

  63. 63
    Cheryl Rofer says:

    @🐾BillinGlendaleCA: Arms control wonks are everywhere!

  64. 64
    Cheryl Rofer says:

    @John Weiss: You may be right that the tweets are almost-random words that spew out of his tiny fingers. But, unfortunately, those words, at this time, include “Japan”, “South Korea,” “China,” and “missile.” The thought they appear to convey seems to be similar to words he has spewed before. And, worst of all, he is President of the United States. So, as in the tweetstream I linked in the top post, other leaders and their foreign policy organizations will try to interpret those tweets. There’s a lot to unpack in how he is putting the country in danger and what other countries are likely to do in response.

  65. 65
    Ramalama says:

    Does our dear leader want China to move on North Korea like a bitch, or is the heavy move more like heavy petting? And more importantly – will tic tacs be involved?

  66. 66
    RSA says:

    I know this sounds dumb and flip but why haven’t we ever just assassinated Kim Jong or the dad .

    I’m not really knowledgeable about this, but I think in the abstract you’d want some sort of legal, public justification for it, which in itself would be problematic. More specifically, if our current President had the ability to order assassinations, do we think it would stop with Kim Jong Un?

  67. 67
    d58826 says:

    A lot of electrons have given their all in the discussion of Kim’s mental state. Whither it can be categorized based on western definitions I’ll leave to the experts, but from what I’ve read his primary motivation is regime survival. He may be ‘paranoid’ in the degree to which he thinks the US is out to get him but all he has to do is look at Saddam to validate that view. Therefore the US (Der Fuhrer) talking about regime change simply drives him deeper into his corner. At some point, if he feels he has nothing left to lose, he will go on the offensive. He might not be able to attack the US but he has enough conventional weapons pointed at Seoul as to make that city uninhabitable within a short space of time. The problem of course is that when he visits Mar-a-Leggo it won’t matter how many scoops of ice cream you put on his choc. cake, he will remain an unpredictable menace with nuclear weapons. (Sad that last sentence applies to a couple of people in this dramas).
    So I guess we are back to the medical adage – first do no harm

  68. 68
    d58826 says:

    @Cheryl Rofer: I wonder if he spent as much time listening to a security briefing before tweeting as the folks on those links spent talking about the launch.

  69. 69
    d58826 says:

    DPRK News Service Retweeted Donald J. Trump
    Infantile dementia sufferer Donald Trump fantasizes his record of humiliations and lies may be erased by wrestling with fantastic creatures.

    Ouch, that’s gonna leave a mark
    https://twitter.com/DPRK_News/status/881531609467559936

  70. 70
    Cheryl Rofer says:

    @d58826: The DPRK News Service account is a parody account. Another of those things it’s hard to be sure of in today’s world.

  71. 71
    Cheryl Rofer says:

    @RSA: The official US position is that we don’t do assassinations. Also, China would be very upset by that kind of government instability in North Korea. As has been noted upthread, China wants neither a border with a Korea that looks like South Korea nor millions of North Korean refugees streaming out of their homes. They would see an assassination as a very unfriendly move by the West. They wouldn’t do it because they don’t know where it would lead. China isn’t fond of Kim, but they are less fond of the alternatives.

    China’s opinion is another thing to consider in an attack on North Korea.

    @d58826: Probably not.

  72. 72
    Another Scott says:

    @Cheryl Rofer: Thanks.

    Just to be clear, I have no inside knowledge or expertise in this area. It may well be that this missile could hit Alaska, but we have to remember that an awful lot of this is posturing. E.g. they said this missile could hit “any corner of the globe”. AFAIK, the US does not have any deployed land-based missile that can hit “any corner of the globe” – there are things like the rotation of the Earth, finite fuel on the rocket, launch points, etc., that make it very difficult to hit places away from certain paths. (Which is another reason why we have “boomer” submarines. Simply getting something into orbit isn’t enough.

    I also remember that the US (and the USSR) spend billions figuring out how to get ICBM warheads to hit their targets. It’s a very, very difficult problem. Just sticking a Garmin on a warhead isn’t going to do it. ;-)

    Also, too, their missiles are liquid-fueled, meaning hours of preparation are required. They won’t be able to do a “sneak attack” with these things.

    Wikipedia:

    New KN-08 based missile: KN-14[edit]

    The mock-up displayed by North Korea in October 2015 was significantly different to previous years, with two stages rather than three. Overall size was somewhat reduced, with larger fuel tanks for the two stages. It was no longer built with extensive riveting, suggesting a more modern structural design, with reduced weight.[6]

    [ an ICBM with 2 stages will be severely limited compared to one with 3 (more mass to carry around longer, reduced range, slower speed).]

    On 31 March 2016, the Washington Free Beacon reported that North Korea this missile shown in 2015 is a new missile, KN-14 instead of KN08. The KN-14 missile, being similar to Russian R-29 SLBM in terms of appearance, but with a range of 8,000 to 12,000 km. Therefore, KN-14 is also given the nickname of “KN-08 on steroids”. Neither KN08 nor KN14 have flight tested as of 2016 April, but the report claimed that North Korea has tested the missiles in “all other aspects”. This report noted that Rick Fisher, a senior fellow at the International Assessment and Strategy Center in this report concluded KN-14 with a 10,000 km range could hit Chicago and Toronto, but insufficient range to hit Washington from the furthest North point in North Korea.[27] The report is also quickly republished in Japanese,[28] Chinese,[29] Taiwanese[30] and Korean[31][32] media.

    Reactions from Chinese military expert[edit]

    For this new missile, the CCTV 4 aired a 9-minute-long interview with a Chinese military expert discussing about KN-14 and North Korea’s potential in future. This video was subsequently uploaded into other Chinese Internet TV.[33]

    The Chinese expert in the video has estimated that North Korea can have a true ICBM strike against US mainland between 2021 and 2026 if they can successfully master their Musudan missile. He stated that the technology and the theory behind an Intermediate Range Ballistic Missile is exactly the same as an ICBM except that ICBM involves more stage separation in order for the missile to have a longer range. North Korea has successfully demonstrated their stage separation technology by the latest 2 satellite launches in 2012 and 2016.

    [ ICBMs move much, much faster than IRBMs (that’s why the missile defense aspects of IRBMs is much easier than ICBMs). Accurate targeting, etc., is much more difficult with ICBMs than IRBMs. It’s not just a stage separation problem. ]

    However, he noted two weakness of North Korea’s missile development program. One is that the North Korea’s missiles are based on the older missile designs. Therefore, their flaws continued in their new missile development since North Korea has conducted only minimal flight tests compared to other countries with active missile development programs. The other aspect is that all of North Korea’s ballistic missiles except the KN-02 are liquid fueled, and therefore the preparation, fueling, and launch takes hours. This amount of time would give enemies such as the United States or South Korea time to conduct airstrikes and destroy the missiles before they could be launched.

    tl;dr – It’s worrying that Kim is continuing to pursue these weapons. But even if he has a few working warheads and missiles, that doesn’t mean that he will attack SK, Japan or the USA. There are lots and lots of pieces of the puzzle that need to be in place to have confidence that these things will work well enough when the time comes. Also, atomic bombs and ballistic missiles are 70+ year old technology. Any reasonably modern state that wants them can get them with enough effort. The key to security is politics, not somehow trying to force a country not to have certain kinds of hardware.

    What should Donnie do? I dunno. He has (or should have) much more information about what’s going on than I do. But from this vantage point, his Twittering and bluster (“It won’t happen!”) is counter-productive and is making the situation needlessly more difficult and dangerous.

    My $0.02.

    Cheers,
    Scott.

  73. 73
    Raoul says:

    @Cheryl Rofer: Not only does Rump have no NK plan, but I’m pretty sure Tillerson hasn’t a fvking clue what to do. And he has happily sat in ponderous silence at State while none (or at best scant few) of the department’s appointees have been named. State is a shambles.
    And really, WTF can the Joint Chiefs do? They have a CIC who tweets heedlessly, can they even ‘advise’ him? Doesn’t seem likely.
    A radioactive Korean peninsula + Japan and region seems well within our catastrophic imaginings. The “Rockets red glare, bombs bursting in air” part of our national anthem is feeling a bit too oracle-like right now.

  74. 74
    Cheryl Rofer says:

    This is no way to conduct foreign policy.

  75. 75
    RepubAnon says:

    @Cheryl Rofer: A peace treaty seems an obvious no-brainer – but I expect North Korea doesn’t really want one. After all, they’re run on the standard dictator model: “we must unite against the evil foreigners who hate us and seek our destruction.”

    Sound familiar?

  76. 76
    Cheryl Rofer says:

    @Another Scott: A lot of strategy is common sense, considering what the other party is thinking and may do in response to one’s own actions. Reasonable people making a reasonable way through life should be able to figure it out. Specific information is also necessary to some degree. Things like that China likes having a buffer state between it and South Korea. So with some information and appropriate modesty, most of us should be able to figure these things out. Unfortunately, Trump lacks both.

    I agree that North Korea’s missiles and probably its nuclear warheads are in a developmental stage. I also suspect that the numbers they have are in the single digits, if not lower. But even one on Seoul or Tokyo would be too much. The sooner we move toward negotiations, the better.

    @RepubAnon: One of Kim’s big concerns is regime change – it’s easy to surmise, as you can see above in this thread. A peace treaty would include some assurances against regime change. So it probably is something Kim wants. That makes it a big negotiating chip for us and why it probably won’t be offered, or even discussion of it, up front. Unless The Great Negotiator does it.

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