Between 1994 and 2008, North Korea conducted 16 missile tests and one nuclear test. Between 2009 and 2016, it has, despite heavy sanctions, conducted 58 missile tests and four nuclear tests, according to the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).
“While the THAAD system works well against short and medium-range ballistic missiles, it is not a foolproof defense against North Korea’s capabilities, particularly if Pyongyang continues taking steps to diversify its missile systems and increase reliability. There are several measures that Pyongyang could take to overwhelm or evade ballistic missile defenses,” Kelsey Davenport, director of Nonproliferation Policy at the Arms Control Institute, told The Daily Caller News Foundation.
One of North Korea’s ambitions appears to be the ability to launch multiple ballistic missiles simultaneously. The latest missile tests make this goal abundantly clear. The following is a video released by Korean Central Television (KCTV) of Monday’s ballistic missile tests.
The video shows the three ballistic missiles fired during the test were launched one after the other in rapid succession. “Enough simultaneous launches could overwhelm the THAAD system and increase the risk of a nuclear-armed ballistic missile reaching its target in South Korea,” said Davenport.
North Korea also wants sea-based strike capabilities. The sub-launched KN-11 ballistic missile North Korea successfully tested in late August poses a legitimate threat. “THAAD has a forward-looking radar with a 120-degree field of view. In the case of a single THAAD battery, North Korea’s submarines would not have to travel very far out to sea to attack the THAAD system from behind the field of view of its radar,” explained Jeffrey Lewis, director of the East Asia Nonproliferation Program at the Center for Proliferation Studies, in a recent article for Arms Control Wonk.
Another North Korean goal is the development of effective intermediate-range missiles. “THAAD has not been tested against intermediate-range systems. North Korea conducted several tests of its intermediate-range ballistic missile, the Musudan, this past spring. Deployment of the Musudan could challenge the THAAD system,” Davenport told TheDCNF.
North Korea has an interest in missiles with separating warheads. The ballistic missiles tested Monday, which were Extended Range Scud missiles, may have been equipped with separating warheads. “A separating warhead would pose additional challenges for missile defense systems such as the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system,” Lewis explained in a Nuclear Threat Initiative article.
Finally, North Korea desires a nuclear deterrent, not a bargaining chip. Kim Jong Un’s aspirations vary greatly from those of his father. “[North Korea’s latest test] is not a cry for negotiations,” CSIS North Korea expert Victor Cha told The New York Times. “This is very clearly a serious effort at amassing real nuclear capabilities that they can use to deter the U.S. and others.”
North Korea’s fifth nuclear test was not a temper tantrum or political statement, Lewis pointed out in a Foreign Policy article. “It has technical purpose. And that purpose is demonstrating the reliability of the ‘standardized’ nuclear warhead to arm the missile force.”
And does anybody think that EMP capability isn't discussed in the upper echelons of the Hermit Kingdom's power structure?