The success, more or less, of the Unha-3 launch raises important questions. Does North Korea have a functioning ICBM now? Is this an Iranian ICBM? Are we all going to die?
Maybe, I don’t know, and yes — but not today.
First, this is a lot like an ICBM, even if it is not quite precisely the same thing.
You have undoubtedly read that a three-stage Taepodong-2, which is what we call the Unha-3, could rain death and destruction as far as 15,000 kilometers away. That is an U.S. intelligence community judgment assuming a slightly modified missile with a 500-kilogram payload. …
Still, the Unha is not an ideal ICBM. In addition to issues with warhead mass reducing range and compromising the structure, there is the issue of fueling the missile. The several-day period during which North Korea erected and fueled the missile has evident drawbacks from a military operations perspective. (Although the quick replacement is worth noting. Perhaps there was a second airframe on site.) North Korea could attempt to deploy the missile in silos or perhaps go the Chinese route of storing the missiles in mountains, rolling them out to launch. They haven’t done that yet.