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Are ballistic missile launches to follow North Korea’s declared H-bomb test?

January 28, 2016, 18:48 UTC+3 Alexandrova Lyudmila
© AP Photo/Wong Maye-E

MOSCOW, January 28. /TASS/. That North Korea may start launching ballistic missiles soon is a realistic possibility. Far more realistic than early January’s declared test of a thermonuclear device, which looked more like political muscle flexing. Ballistic missiles pose a very specific military threat, although the weapons in question are rather medium range ones. Russian experts are certain that North Korea still has no intercontinental ballistic missiles, but research and development is well in progress.

North Korea is getting ready to test a long-range ballistic missile capable of reaching the territory of the United States. The launch may be expected within a week, Japan’s news agency Kyodo quoted government sources as saying. The United States and South Korea have confirmed they have noticed some suspicious preparations, adding that missile launches by North Korea would be a fresh challenge to international community and result in tighter anti-North Korean sanctions.

True, such tests, should they take place, do constitute a real military threat, military analyst Viktor Murakhovsky, editor-in-chief of the Arsenal Otechestva magazine, has told TASS. "North Korea has already tested tactical missiles having a range of 1,200-1,500 kilometers. Now they are trying to achieve a level of approximately medium-range missiles flying as far as 5,000-6,000 kilometers. It is pretty clear that such missiles will be capable of hitting not only South Korea, but also Japan and US bases in the Pacific. In all likelihood, if research proceeds at the current pace, North Korea will soon have at its disposal missiles with a range of 7,000-8,000 kilometers. These will surely be able to threaten targets in US territory."

North Korea is not a signatory to the nuclear weapons non-proliferation treaty. Nor is it affiliated with the missile technologies control regimen, so North Korean missiles can easily get to other countries, for instance, Iraq.

"Naturally, the international community, including Russia, finds this worrisome, because North Korea has a common border with Russia. Research into long-range missiles is on the list of our concerns. We should take the corresponding military measures to ward off all potential threats coming from there," Murakhovsky said.

He is certain that North Korea earlier this month tested not a hydrogen bomb, contrary to what Pyongyang said, but something else.

"The yield and other parameters are a clear sign it was not a thermonuclear explosion," he said. "It was rather a political act. Sadly, in contrast to this tactical ballistic missiles are a reality. It is well-known that all attempts to put a satellite in orbit with an intercontinental class missile have failed so far. But they are moving on to this goal slowly but surely," Murakhovsky said.

The January 2016 test, and "most likely it was a test of thermonuclear weapon components," certainly had a political aspect, not a military one, the head of the Eurasian integration and SCO development section at the CIS Studies Institute, Vladimir Yevseyev, has told TASS. "Throughout last year the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, made it clear to Washington more than once that if the United States and North Korea went ahead with joint military exercises, North Korea would be unable to guarantee it would refrain from conducting nuclear tests further on. Yet all of North Korea’s calls for concluding a peace treaty with the United States and for some improvement in relations were invariably dismissed as demagogy and propaganda. This explains why there has followed such a reaction."

"From the military point of view there was no need for conducting such a test. It would be far more reasonable to conduct it after the work on the warhead was over," he said.

Yevseyev explained that North Korea had no nuclear warheads on any of its delivery vehicles. "They only have free-fall nuclear bombs that can be delivered to the target by air. The vehicle they can use for this is rather primitive. South Korea’s air defense is impregnable to it."

"There are no facts confirming that North Korea has intercontinental missiles. This does not mean that no research is in progress, but saying it is an accomplished fact would be premature," he said. "In a real combat situation they will have only the Musudan missile, with a maximum range of no more than 4,000 kilometers. Even Hawaii is out of reach. True, it might be launched from a submarine, but a sea-launched configuration of Musudan does not exist yet."

Whatever the case, the world public mind is in great alarm, Yevseyev said. "Just recently there was a thermonuclear test, which is crude violation of the UN Security Council resolution. We’ve been telling them that nuclear tests are unnecessary. After that any report of a ballistic missile launch will surely cause great concerns. The more so, since it will be a violation of the UN Security Council resolution and entail demands for taking more sanctions."

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