Plans are underway for what could be historic talks between President Donald Trump and North Korea’s Supreme Leader, Kim Jong Un. After months of escalating tensions between two two nations and their respective figureheads, North Korea has made a significant effort to appear ready for a diplomatic resolution to a conflict that once made war seem unavoidable.
Kim Jong Un recently announced a halt to most ballistic missile tests and an end to test detonations of nuclear weapons — however, some intelligence reports seem to indicate that North Korea’s Punggye-ri Nuclear Test Site, located beneath Mount Mantap, may have been too damaged by their most recent test that the facility is no longer viable anyway. North Korea’s September detonation of what experts believe was the nation’s first hydrogen bomb, or dual stage nuclear weapon, caused tunnel collapses that claimed the lives of an estimated 200 workers, and according to some Chinese based intelligence outlets, the damage to the mountain may have been sufficient to render the facility unsafe for further testing. Satellite images have shown excavation work at the site that has slowed recently, potentially as a result of this realization.
“In view of the research finding that the North Korea nuclear test site at Mantapsan has collapsed, it is necessary to continue to monitor any leakage of radioactive materials that may have been caused by the collapse,” the Chinese report stated. It’s important to consider a possible bias, as China remains North Korea’s primary ally, however the paper was peer-reviewed and accepted for publication in the U.S. Based Geophysical Research Letters, a bi-weekly scientific publication.
In other words, despite Kim’s overtures toward peace, he has thus far offered very little indication via national behavior to suggest he truly intends to dismantle North Korea’s nuclear arsenal — and while it’s important that America pursue diplomacy in the face of what would potentially be an incredibly costly war, it’s clear that the Defense Department isn’t operating under the assumption that peace has already found its way onto the Korean peninsula. While the diplomats pursue peace, America’s war fighting apparatus must always be prepared for war.
America periodically test launches unarmed ICBM platforms for training and quality assurance purposes, and this year is no exception. Despite diplomatic pressure on North Korea to halt their testing and development of nuclear capable platforms, the United States made an indirect statement on Wednesday: North Korea’s nuclear days may be numbers, but America remains a global nuclear powerhouse.
At 5:26 a.m. PST, an unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile tore out of its silo at Vandenberg Air Force Base in Southern California and headed out over the Pacific Ocean. No announcement has been made about the distance covered by the missile before splashing down in an undisclosed area of the Pacific, but the last test, which was conducted in August of 2017, traveled a reported 4,200 miles before splashing down near the Marshall Islands.
You can watch a video of the launch below:
Image courtesy of the U.S. Air Force