CNN reports that North Korea launched their second missile test in a week last Sunday during President Trump’s visit to Saudi Arabia. As per usual, “Supreme Leader” Kim Jong Un told the North Korean state-run media that the launch was “perfect”.
His praise of the missile might be more than just exaggeration, though. The same CNN article reports that the official position of the South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff is that “South Korean and U.S. intelligence authorities assess that North Korea, through its missile launch yesterday, has secured meaningful data for improving the credibility of its missile technology,”
If the “meaningful data” procured by the missile proves to be useful, North Korean’s military capability could be a greater threat to U.S National Security than before.
That being said, it’s worth asking: Is North Korea that much more of a threat to the U.S than it was before President Trump was elected?
Let’s look at the facts.
BBC reports that the longest missile range in North Korea is still just barely reaching continental Alaska. While this may be worrying, it certainly isn’t a change in threat levels.
The same article mentions that experts believe North Korea may be escalating its military in hopes of being taken seriously while brokering peace with the U.S.
Meanwhile, a CNN article evaluating both sides of the issue has some interesting caveats.
First, North Korea undoubtedly has more missiles than before. Their last parade was on a scale “never seen before”, according to David Schmerler, a research associate at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies.
Second, the Department of Defense reported in 2012 that North Korea has chemical weapons they can deploy “by modifying a variety of conventional munitions, including artillery and ballistic missiles.”
On the flip side, their most recent test of an intercontinental missile ended in abject failure, like many other tests before it. With that in mind, the question remains: Is a missile program that’s rarely successful isn’t changing that anytime soon more of a threat than it was a year ago?
It’s a good question to bear in mind in case a push for war comes in the following months.