While Americans watched in dismay media coverage of the ongoing slow-motion devastation of Hurricane Harvey in Texas, North Korea staged new missile tests, this time three shorter-range missiles launched simultaneously.
It was another flouting of U.S. demands to halt the tests and broke the regime’s apparent acquiescence to threats by the Trump administration to halt its weapons of mass destruction development.
The tests were two-thirds successful, the U.S. Pacific Command said. One missile blew up shortly after launch, according to officials. The others flew only about 155 miles before splashing into the sea. Clearly, their range could not reach Guam, a U.S. territory with numerous military installations where Kim Jung-un has vowed to deliver “a ring of fire.”
However, such a range could easily hit Seoul and major U.S. and South Korean military installations south of the capital, including the developing site of advanced THAAD anti-missile missiles.
The North has previously launched these 300-mm missiles from tubes, but not multiple missiles simultaneously, taken as a new advance by the Communist regime. Older versions of the missile were smaller and had a 37-mile range, still capable of hitting the heavily-populated Seoul area.
Unusually, North Korea’s neighbors did not issue their ritual condemnations. South Korea’s government remained silent and a Japanese spokesman in Tokyo had no comment since the missiles did not land in Japanese waters.
Presumably the tests were Pyongyang’s usual response to the ongoing joint military exercises between the U.S. and Seoul. Regime media said the North’s military held similar military drills, including mock invasions of sites modeled after cities in the South.
Media also reported that Kim last week had visited a weapons development institute where, experts said, photos appeared to show work on lighter-weight composite missile casings, which would lengthen the range of existing rockets.