North Korea launched another ICBM believed to be a Hwasong-12 overnight on a trajectory that again took it over Japan’s northern island of Hokkaido, causing Japanese authorities to issue a panicked missile warning to its citizens.
What was notable about this particular launch is that the missile flew about 2,300 miles in 19 minutes before crashing into the Pacific Ocean. That means the U.S. territory of Guam, at 2,100 miles away, is now within reach of North Korean missiles and, obviously, nuclear missiles.
Japan’s defence minister Itsunori Onodera said he believes that the latest test was to demonstrate Pyongyang’s ability to target the Pacific island possession. “We cannot assume North Korea’s intention, but given what it has said, I think it has Guam in mind,” he said.
Japanese officials were quick to condemn the latest test. “We can never tolerate that North Korea trampled on the international community’s strong, united resolve toward peace that has been shown in UN resolutions and went ahead again with this outrageous act,” said Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. “If North Korea continues to walk down this path, it has no bright future. We must make North Korea understand this.”
Another Japanese government official was quoted as saying the country will “never tolerate this repeated provocative action by North Korea,” and that Tokyo would make an appropriate response.
The danger moving forward is a miscalculation by North Korea that Japanese, South Korean, and U.S. patience is limitless. Another danger: Sending missiles over other sovereign countries runs the risk of having those missiles malfunction and actually hit the country, and North Korean missiles have a history of malfunctioning, though not lately. Where a North Korean missile to strike any Japanese land mass, it would be viewed as an attack and give the U.S. and its allies all the reasons necessary to counterattack in force.
Why it’s on our radar: Information in this article helps satisfy Priority Intelligence Requirement 3: What are the latest indicators of a conflict with North Korea? Each week in our Strategic Intelligence Summary, we gauge the likelihood and scope of conflict with Russia, China, North Korea, and in the Middle East, and track the latest developments in each region. Subscribe here to receive our premium intelligence products prepared by Intelligence and special operations veterans.