North Korea might actually be getting worse at launching missiles

There’s also reason to believe, with this latest failure, that Pyongyang is getting worse at their launches. “If the North Koreans were making progress with their missile program, you would expect to see them fixing problems after each failure and fine-tuning the technology,” says Brian Weeden, a former officer with the U.S. Air Force Space Command. “Instead, you see a range of different failure modes, indicating they are not really making much progress and actually may be going backwards as they keep making changes without truly understanding what went wrong in each case.”

Now, if the North Koreans tested their rockets as frequently as the U.S. (and the Russians, and the Chinese) used to test theirs, then yeah, they’d be able to develop an intercontinental ballistic missile. So why don’t they?

“They’re under lot of pressure,” says Lewis, “and when they do ‘test’ them, they get sanctioned.” And that’s likely to happen again, as the United Nations Security Council is set to meet tomorrow to discuss another round of punitive measures for the North Koreans.