North Korean Long-Range Missile Fails In Flight
North Korea has initially fired two short-range missiles that landed 600km off the coast of mainland Japan, according to Japan’s NHK. Then, the North Korean Taepodong-2 long-range missile failed in flight. Some reports include the possibility of as many as five missiles fired. From the Japanese Broadcasting Company’s (NHK) “Breaking News” scroll early after the detection:
Japanese government officials say they have received information that North Korea launched a missile on Wednesday morning. Japanese Defense Agency officials have confirmed that a 2nd missile was launched. The officials say the 1st missile was fired at 03:32 Japan time [2:32PM EDT] on Wednesday and it landed in the Sea of Japan after about 6 minutes. The Japanese government is trying to confirm what type of missiles were fired. Japanese government officials in charge of crisis management are convening at the Prime Minister’s Official Residence to gather information.
Neither of the first two launches were the Taepodong-2 missile that has been sitting on the launch pad. Associated Press sourced a Pentagon official noting that “they were Scud missiles and not the longer-range variety that has been the focus of international concern.”
The firings were likely a test of sorts, surely the failed Taepongdo-2 was a new missile test. The long-range Taepongdo-2, with the potential of hitting Alaska, failed shortly after firing. But the North Korean regime was more precisely dipping their toes into the waters of international brinkmanship once more.
North Korea is not testing the missile as much as they are testing US and Japanese resolve, fishing for reaction. While North Korea has threatened the US with nuclear war, the United States has essentially dismissed the North Korean threats. This does not serve the extortion-minded communist regime’s strategy well.
As James Na noted in The Seattle Times, North Korea’s entire missile crisis gambit could backfire on them by eroding whatever appeasement exists in both South Korea and Japan. They are likely overplaying a familiar hand of international extortion. For this reason, the United States reaction to today’s Scud missile launches will likely be somewhat muted, keeping in line with the course taken thus far, allowing South Korean and Japanese reaction do the heavy lifting. The next 48 hours will tell just how much North Korea has overplayed its hand, if at all.
For a good summation of the North Korean missile threat, see the UPI’s Analysis: North Korea’s missile threat, by Editor in Chief, Michael Marshall.