Cross-land launch a message to South, displays confidence in missile system, researchers says
North Korea launched two short-range ballistic missiles (SRBM), presumed to be Hwasong-6 (Scud-C/D), into the East Sea (Sea of Japan) Thursday morning.
“North Korea today at 0520, launched two SRBMs from North Hwanghae Province to the direction of the East Sea, northeast of Wonsan, Kangwon Province,” said South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staffs (JCS), Chosun Ilbo reported.
The JCS announced that the projectiles flew over 500 kilometers.”We are keeping our eyes on the matter and are maintaining preparatory position for North Korea’s provocations,” said the JCS. One week ago, North Korea fired six rounds of a large-caliber (probably around 300mm) multiple rocket launcher.
Kim Dong-yup, researcher at the Institute for Far Eastern Studies, believes the location of the launch shows increasing North Korean confidence in their own weaponry.
“From Hwanghae province across to the East Sea? If JCS’ report is true…this may be a display of their overwhelming confidence (in this system),” Kim told NK News.
It is unclear though if this is really the first time North Korea has fired a Scud this manner. In July 2014, the country fired two short-range ballistic missiles from a location near Kaesong across land and into the East Sea. These missile may have been Scuds as well.
South Korean military experts said that the series of rising threats is North Korea’s way of delivering messages to its two nemeses, the U.S. and South Korea.
“North Korea often sends their message to two different receivers, usually the U.S. and South Korea, separately,” Yang Uk, a senior research fellow from the Korea Defense and Security Forum (KODEF), told NK News.
“Yesterday’s display of the miniaturized nuclear bomb was for the U.S, while the recipient of today’s message is clearly South Korea. Their message is that they can use their (Scud and) warhead to attack whole of Korea. As they have launched the Scud-C it might be their hint that they are capable of fitting the warhead in to the C type as well,” Yang said.
The level of North Korean provocation has only risen higher, with North Korea having threatened to “liberate” South Korea and strike the U.S. mainland should the ROK-U.S. joint training forces ever make a “minor, threatening” movement to overthrow the North Korean leadership.
“We declare without hesitation that our half-century long prepared ‘unification holy war’ will occur in a speedy way that none of the world has ever heard or seen,” the North’s state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) wrote on Monday.
On Wednesday, North Korean media released pictures of what is presumed to be the mock-up of a miniaturized nuclear warhead, with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un claiming that “the nuclear warheads have been weaponized to be fit for ballistic missiles by miniaturizing them,” KCNA reported.
However, Suh Kune-yull, a nuclear scientist from Seoul National University, said the warhead shown in the pictures was at a very premature state of development.
“If you look at the mirrors attached to the warhead, there are only around 30 to 40 of them. This shows that the warhead is still in a very premature state, and its explosive power would be relatively low by today’s standard,” said Suh.
Featured image: North Korean Hwasong-6 (Scud-C/D) launch near Wonsan, June 2014 | Photo: KCNA
John Grisafi contributed to this report. – NK News
(JH Ahn is an NK News correspondent based in Seoul. He previously worked as an interpreter for United States Forces Korea.)