Over the weekend, North Korea earned further worldwide scorn after it tested a highly technical long-range rocket system.
Pyongyang claimed that the test was part of a peaceful and benign space program.
However, the rogue regimes' latest launch is almost assuredly a cover for testing a ballistic and nuclear weapons program.
Gordon Chang, writing for The Daily Beast, notes that the satellite system that North Korea claims to have launched over the weekend would weigh essentially as much as a nuclear warhead. This satellite launch could thus dovetail with Pyongyang's claimed successful testing and detonation of a miniaturized hydrogen bomb.
Although there is still no indication that North Korea would be able to develop missile and nuclear warheads en masse, let alone successfully deploy them beyond tests, this latest rocket launch is alarming.
(The Heritage Foundation)
According to The Heritage Foundation, North Korea's new Taepodong 3 missile has an estimated range of 13,000 kilometers. This would place the entire continental US within range of the missile. Assuming that Pyongyang would be able to attack a warhead to a Taepodong missile and manage to launch it at the US, the missiles could be capable of delivering major damage to the country.
"If its warhead is nuclear and explodes high above the American homeland, an electromagnetic pulse could disable electronics across vast swatches of the country," Chang writes.
In October, Admiral Bill Gortney, commander of the North American Aerospace Defense Command, also assessed that North Korea has "the capability to reach the [US] homeland with a nuclear weapon from a rocket," The Guardian reported.
Gortney also warned in an April 2015 news conference that he was confident that, according to a Pentagon assessment, Pyongyang would be able to place miniaturized nuclear warheads on its KN-08 intercontinental ballistic missile.
However, Gortney did qualify this assessment.
"Should one get airborne and come at us, I'm confident we would be able to knock it down," he told reporters.
In the face of such a challenge, the US has agreed to deploy the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile system to South Korea.
The missile system is able to knock enemy missiles out of the sky, hopefully limiting the utility of any long-range missiles in North Korea's arsenal.
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