Advances in North Korea’s Missile Program and What Comes Next

September 26, 2017
Melissa Hanham and Seiyeon Ji

The following is an excerpt from Arms Control Today.

North Korea in July test-launched two intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) capable of reaching the U.S. mainland. Such long-range capability, coupled with nuclear warhead advances, has been considered a U.S. redline that could draw a U.S. military response.

A spectrum of diplomatic and military options is available to the United States and allies South Korea and Japan. The risks are significant, and the time available for diplomacy may be limited. In response to the August missile tests, the United States made a show of force, flying nuclear-capable aircraft over South Korea, and President Donald Trump on Aug. 8 threatened North Korea with “fire and fury like the world has never seen” if it continues to make threats against the United States. A hawkish minority in South Korea has renewed arguments for returning U.S. tactical nuclear weapons to their country or even for building South Korea’s own nuclear deterrent. North Korea responded to Trump’s statements by stating that leader Kim Jong Un would consider testing the Hwasong-12 intermediate-range missile toward the U.S. territory of Guam. It appears that this plan is tabled pending a favorable response from the United States.

Overwhelmingly, military and weapons of mass destruction (WMD) experts agree that there is no way to engage North Korea in a limited war that would not escalate and result in the loss of tens if not hundreds of thousands of lives on the peninsula, including American ones. “If this goes to a military solution, it’s going to be tragic on an unbelievable scale,” Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis said at a Pentagon news conference May 19, before the latest escalation in tensions. “So our effort is to work with the UN, work with China, work with Japan, work with South Korea to try to find a way out of this situation.”

Read the full article at Arms Control Today.

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