Just how bad was the North Korea missile launch last night?

posted at 11:01 am on February 7, 2016 by Jazz Shaw

This story actually broke just as we were warming up for the debate last night and our readers were discussing it in comments while most of the political sphere was focused on New Hampshire. Ahead of their original schedule, Kim Jong-un launched a missile into orbit allegedly carrying an “Earth observing satellite” over the objections of pretty much everyone else on the planet. Like we needed this on top of everything else that’s going on.(WaPo)

North Korea on Sunday declared that it had successfully put an “earth observation satellite” into orbit under the direct orders of leader Kim Jong Un, and said it planned to launch “many more.”

Both the South Korean defense ministry and the Pentagon said that the rocket, launched at 9 a.m. North Korean time from a launch pad near the Chinese border, appeared to have successfully reached space.

The United States, Japan and South Korea immediately condemned the launch, a move widely seen as another step toward North Korea mastering the technology for making a missile capable of striking the mainland United States. The U.N. Security Council called an emergency meeting for later Sunday to discuss how to respond to the country’s latest provocation.

It certainly looks like they put something into space, though how much of an actual satellite it is remains to be seen. The particularly bad news is that this was a long range launch, passing directly over Okinawa, and could hit any number of targets if it wasn’t heading for space. Couple that with their most recent nuclear weapons testing and you’ve got a recipe for some furrowed brows in all the western nations. For that matter, even China condemned the launch (though in rather mild tones) and they’re Kim’s only remaining friends in the world with any real power.

Even though the news was still fresh off the press it showed up at the GOP debate. Ted Cruz offered a few dire words on the subject when asked.

With respect to North Korea and what we should do now, one of the first things we should do is expand our missile defense capacity. We ought to put missile defense interceptors in South Korea. South Korea wants them. One of the real risks of this launch, North Korea wants to launch a satellite, and one of the greatest risks of the satellite is they would place a nuclear device in the satellite. As it would orbit around the Earth, and as it got over the United States they would detonate that nuclear weapon and set of what’s called an EMP, and electromagnetic pulse which could take down the entire electrical grid on the Eastern seaboard, potentially killing millions.

We need to harden the grid to defend ourselves, and we need missile defense to protect ourselves against North Korea.

There’s been plenty of discussion of the threat of a North Korean EMP attack on the United States for years now with varying opinions on just how effective it would be. The overwhelming consensus is that it certainly wouldn’t be good, but precisely how bad it would be depends on a lot of factors including the efficacy of the bomb, where it was relative to the continent, altitude and other questions which can’t be answered up front. Perhaps the bigger question is just how up to date our intelligence is and if we would really know for sure if they had developed the ability to load a bomb on such a mission.

The second, more obvious worry is that it wouldn’t be heading into space, but directly for Seattle. So what do we do about it? Missile defense systems in South Korea sound good, but there are logistic and political hurdles to that, mostly involving China. I’d love to have a definitive answer here short of wiping out Pyongyang preemptively, but I don’t. Thankfully I’m not running for president. Let’s hope whoever wins this election has something in mind, because North Korea is no longer just a hypothetical problem.

NORKlaunch


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Comment pages: 1 2

It’s a climate change issue…

vilebody on February 7, 2016 at 6:52 PM

Finally. A problem that can’t be blamed on Islamophobia, Climate Change or George Bush.

But will eventually be anyway, by someone.

orangemtl on February 7, 2016 at 7:06 PM

Obama’s kept this nation safe thus far…

nonpartisan on February 7, 2016 at 11:14 AM

Explain that one to Kate Steinle’s folks.

Skip2014 on February 7, 2016 at 7:18 PM

Nuke lil’ Kim. Don’t look back, make no excuses. Just wait for a day with little wind and blowing southeast. Wouldn’t want the Chinese to be harmed by the destruction of the puppet state they have run since 1949.

phadras on February 7, 2016 at 7:46 PM

Nuke lil’ Kim. Don’t look back, make no excuses. Just wait for a day with little wind and blowing southeast. Wouldn’t want the Chinese to be harmed by the destruction of the puppet state they have run since 1949.

phadras on February 7, 2016 at 7:46 PM

You don’t suppose South Korea and Japan will mind the fallout?

DarkCurrent on February 7, 2016 at 7:56 PM

You don’t suppose South Korea and Japan will mind the fallout?

East then southeast.

phadras on February 7, 2016 at 8:50 PM

East then southeast.

phadras on February 7, 2016 at 8:50 PM

So all over Japan from the tohoku region to kansai?

DarkCurrent on February 7, 2016 at 9:09 PM

As always spot on.

DarkCurrent on February 7, 2016 at 6:51 PM

As always, too kind.

Happy new year. Hope you have a good time with your family and friends.

YiZhangZhe on February 7, 2016 at 9:38 PM

We really just need to bomb Pyongyang. Put it out of action. But we won’t. We just keep sitting on our arses for the end of days. Heck, Obama is accelerating it. We’d be better off if Obama just dropped dead. Sad but true.

Sherman1864 on February 7, 2016 at 10:01 PM

This is why we have land based ICBM interceptors in Alaska. Deployment began under Bush 43. Obozo initially wanted to axe them. Then Kimmy started to detonate nukes so Obozo reversed course and add some.

This is why we have Ageis Cruisers with ESSM missiles that can take these out in flight. Japan has 4 as well and they want a new and improved class. This is why our CVNBGs have1-2 CGs with them at all times. Kimmy is a yapping lapdog. These assets are for China’s benefit.

As for the Chicoms, this is why the USN is getting friendlier with the Indian Navy. Gonna be helping them with their new domestically produced CV.

Bubba Redneck on February 7, 2016 at 10:12 PM

Silly Jazz.

No need to worry about NorK missiles or space platforms.

Trump knows the solution to every problem. And, whatever that is… God knows, Himself ain’t saying… it will be beautiful, spectacular and a yuuge win for Trump!

LaserBeam on February 7, 2016 at 10:54 PM

Bubba Redneck on February 7, 2016 at 10:12 PM

And they’ll sail around in circles costing money for the next decade or two until the US can’t pay for them anymore.

DarkCurrent on February 7, 2016 at 10:56 PM

I’ll see your pre-emptive destruction of Pyongyang, and raise you nuclear incineration of Mecca and Medina.

Demonized on February 7, 2016 at 11:57 PM

Trying to imagine what a NK “earth observing” satellite would be… A pot-bellied pig wearing a go-pro camera? Kim Jong Oink?

Seriously, though, this is a China-observing problem in our unaccountably passive foreign policy. We just sit around grumbling about these obvious provocations.

At some point, it would be great to have a national government!

virgo on February 8, 2016 at 12:02 PM

Thank you, Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton.

jclittlep on February 8, 2016 at 2:39 PM

Why would anyone be concerned about how effective a NK nuke ICBM might be? That’s the wrong question.

The right question is why are we not stopping NK dead in its tracks?

billrowe on February 8, 2016 at 3:42 PM

The right question is why are we not stopping NK dead in its tracks?

billrowe on February 8, 2016 at 3:42 PM

It is a very good question and here are the most likely “right answers”:

(1) Because the people of Seoul don’t really want to be the “collateral damage” in an avoidable conflict.

(2) Because China likes having a “rabid dog on a short leash” as a way of keeping Japan and the USA wary of interfering in the region, and also likes having a malleable buffer state between itself and the imperialist aggressors on the Korean peninsular, and for these reasons will defend North Korea if necessary.

(3) Because Sovereign states can mind their own business, and attacking a state that isn’t an immediate and direct threat tends to be expensive in terms of national reputation.

(4) Because North Korea has already hacked the USA so thoroughly that it is actually the American President and his staff who are the puppets; meanwhile the Chinese, Russians and North Koreans are taking turns to twitch the strings as part of a drinking game to see who can make the American government do the most ridiculous thing.

YiZhangZhe on February 8, 2016 at 4:48 PM

It’s an “Earth-observing” satellite.

They want the whole Earth to observe it, and NK’s abilities.

Duly noted, and targeting adjusted accordingly.

ReggieA on February 8, 2016 at 4:50 PM

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