North Korea conducted a test launch of a short-range ballistic missile on September 15, following a test launch of a long-range cruise missile on September 11-12. Military journalist Buntaro Kuroi deciphered the “true intentions” of Kim Jong-un and Kim Yo Jong. In this article, he discusses the “true intentions” of Kim Jong-un and Kim Yo Jong.
What are the characteristics of the two North Korean missiles?
The cruise missile is propelled by a jet engine and is slow but generally has excellent accuracy. Because of their low speed, they are relatively easy to shoot down if detected, but because they usually travel at very low altitudes, they are not easily detected by radar until they are right in front of you.
Ballistic missiles, on the other hand, are launched at high speed by rocket propulsion and fly with the inertia of their momentum to attack their targets. Because they reach high altitudes, they are easily detected and tracked by radar from a distance, but their high speed makes them difficult to intercept.
All of Japan is now “within range.
The cruise missile launched by North Korea on November 11 and 12 has a range of 1,500 km, and is capable of targeting all of Japan. At the Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK) congress in January of this year, Chairman Kim Jong-un (now General Secretary) reported on the party’s political achievements up to that point and its future plans, and among the references to the military field was the statement, “We are also developing a series of advanced nuclear tactical weapons, including medium- and long-range cruise missiles. In other words, they are developing cruise missiles as nuclear missiles, and if they are completed, Japan will have to prepare for nuclear cruise missiles in addition to its conventional nuclear ballistic missiles.
However, in order to make it a nuclear missile, the nuclear bomb would have to be miniaturized to the level of several hundred kilograms, which North Korea has not yet achieved. Although the power of each missile is not great, we can expect good results by using many of them.
Even in the event of a nuclear war on the Korean Peninsula, there is a good chance that the war will be limited and not involve nuclear weapons, but even in that case, the long-range cruise missile will be an extremely effective practical weapon.
The “low trajectory” of the missile makes it impossible for Aegis ships to shoot it down.
Also, the ballistic missile launched by North Korea this time is the KN-23, which is already known to exist. Unlike ordinary ballistic missiles, it is launched at a low angle, like a “liner ball” in baseball, and takes an irregular trajectory with a slight hop in its descent phase, using small steering wings to glide and extend its flight range. North Korea calls it a “new type of tactical guided missile with a low-altitude gliding and jumping flight system.
This time, the maximum altitude was 50 km, which cannot be shot down by the Self-Defense Forces’ current Aegis ships, which can only intercept missiles at an altitude of 70 km or higher. The KN-23 had previously flown up to 600 km, and North Korea had claimed that it was a weapon for use against South Korea, but this time the range has been increased to 750 km. If launched from the southeastern tip of North Korea, it could reach Maizuru, Himeji, Kochi, and Kumamoto. In an actual contingency, it is unlikely to be fired from such a frontline location, but even if it is fired from a more distant area, it is likely to be within range of Fukuoka, Hiroshima, or the U.S. military bases in Iwakuni and Sasebo.
It is unclear whether or not the warhead with a nuclear bomb on board can actually reach some parts of Japan, but the threat assessment has to be based on the assumption that this is a possibility. In other words, a new threat has emerged: nuclear missiles that cannot be intercepted by Aegis ships may be able to reach parts of Japan.
Using trains to “disperse launch sites
North Korea also launched the KN-23 from a train for the first time, rather than from a conventional vehicle. According to a North Korean statement, this will be “an efficient means of response strike that can inflict enormous blows on threatening forces simultaneously in the execution of decentralized firepower missions throughout the country. North Korea has a nationwide railroad network, which it plans to use to disperse its launch sites.
Since it is extremely difficult for even the U.S. military to detect and destroy the KN-23 before it is launched, even with the conventional vehicle type, the arrival of the railroad type is not so much a boost to their war potential as it is an increase in the number of targets for the U.S. and South Korea to monitor.
Doubts over reports of “provocation” by Kim Jong-un
In any case, North Korea has been steadily strengthening its military capabilities in this way. In particular, the two missiles fired this time are both aimed at Japan.
There is one thing that has been bothering me in the news reports about the latest missile launch. “Why now? There is an emphasis on political motives, such as “because we want the U.S., which is busy with the Afghanistan issue, to take an interest in us,” “to counter South Korea’s test launch of a submarine-launched missile ( SLBM),” and “to check the Japan-U.S.-South Korea high-level talks. This is the ” provocation to get attention” argument often seen in reports on North Korean nuclear missiles, but is it true?
This view is actually the mainstream view among South Korean government sources, experts, and media, and the Japanese media has been influenced by it, but it is only speculation and has little basis in reality.
The Pointlessness of “Provoking” the U.S. and South Korea
There are two main ways to find out the intentions of the North Koreans: one is to check their statements and claims.
The first is to check their statements and assertions, which they almost always make themselves. It would be understandable if such motives were mentioned in this statement, but in fact they are not. The statement on the KN-23 launch, for example, said only that it was “in accordance with the course and policy of modernizing the armed forces set forth by the Party Congress (held in January),” “as part of the establishment of a new national defense strategy,” and “in line with the Party’s military strategic and tactical concepts and plans.
The statement at the time of the cruise missile launch also says only that it was “to achieve the key objectives of the Five-Year Plan for the Scientific Development of National Defense and the Development of Weapons Systems as outlined by the Party Congress. North Korea itself makes no mention of any political motive equivalent to provocation or appeal to the US and South Korea.
The question then is whether there is a hidden agenda that they are not talking about, but it is necessary to examine whether such an effect can be seen in reality. The question is whether North Korea’s military actions, if they attract the attention of the U.S., South Korea and the international community, will bring any benefits to them.
For example, if the U.S. were to move to “negotiate in North Korea’s favor” or “ease economic sanctions” in order to appease North Korea, this would not be the case. On the contrary, it will only invite a harsh response. It is almost inconceivable that North Korea would intend to do something that would not actually bring benefits.
Focus on the “truth” told by Kim Yo Jong, the younger sister.
In fact, Kim Jong-un’s sister, Kim Yo Jong, the deputy head of the party, has spoken clearly on this point: On September 15, she issued a statement condemning South Korea’s SLBM launch test.
“We are now carrying out normal and self-defensive activities to carry out the key tasks of the first year of the Five-Year Plan for the Scientific Development of National Defense and the Development of Weapons Systems to carry out the decisions of our Party Congress, instead of aiming at someone and choosing a certain time to ‘provoke’ as South Korea is speculating. Perhaps she is right.
Perhaps she is right.
Reporting and writing： Fumitaro Kuroi