North Korea conducted their first ballistic missile test of 2017 on Sunday, firing what experts believe was an IRBM (intermediate-range ballistic missile) into the Sea of Japan.

The missile flew just over three hundred miles before crashing into the waterway that bears the name of the nation many believe Kim Jong Un had in mind when hitting the button for the test: Japan.  The Japanese Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, was continuing his visit with the President of the United States as the test was conducted.

North Korean officials labeled the test a success, calling the missile a “surface-to-surface medium-to-long-range ballistic missile” in their state-owned media.  The missile, called the Pukguksong-2, is the latest missile platform to come from North Korea, and is believed to be capable of housing a nuclear warhead.

“It’s yet unclear what missile was tested,” said Thomas Karako, a missile expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. “What is certain is that North Korea has now begun 2017 by continuing the aggressive pace of missile testing they’ve shown in recent years.”

Though it is important to note that experts cannot be certain of the specifics regarding the missile, a combination of information provided by North Korean officials and intelligence gathered from other sources, including tracking of this most recent missile test, have given experts enough to make some credible guesses as to the capabilities of the missile.

Estimates suggest that the missile’s potential range could be anywhere from 1,800 to 3,400 miles, keeping the continental United States outside of its potential range, but easily placing South Korea and Japan in its cross hairs.  It is believed that a relatively short test range of approximately three hundred miles was chosen to limit the potential for the missile accidentally landing in Japan.

As a result, South Korea, Japan and the United States have requested an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council to discuss the test.

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KCNA, the official North Korean media outlet, stated that Kim Jong Un “expressed great satisfaction” after the test launch, going on to say that the missile “adds to the tremendous might of the country.”

In a statement, South Korea’s foreign ministry said, “North Korea’s repeated provocations show the Kim Jong-un regime’s nature of irrationality, maniacally obsessed in its nuclear and missile development.”

Although President Donald Trump made an appearance on Saturday night alongside Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, he made no mention of the missile test during his statement.  The following day, Stephen Miller, the president’s senior adviser for policy, appeared on Face the Nation to say that although Mr. Trump has yet to directly address the missile test, his appearance alongside the Japanese prime minister sent a strong message.  One that would be reinforced in the coming weeks.

“But we’re going to be sending another signal very soon, and that signal is when we begin a great rebuilding of the armed forces of the United States,” he said. “President Trump is going to go to Congress and ask them to invest in our military so once again we will have unquestioned military strength beyond anything anybody can imagine.”

 

Image courtesy of EPA