North Korea launched a missile over Japan Friday for the second time in less in the month, with the latest showing the secretive regime is capable of hitting Guam, but missile accuracy remains low, a scientist says.
North Korea sent an intermediate-range missile over the northern part of Japan and into the Pacific Ocean, completing the country’s longest test flight of a ballistic missile.
According to South Korea’s military, the missile travelled about 3,700 kilometres and reached a maximum altitude of 770 kilometres.
David Wright, physicist and co-director of the U.S.-based Union of Concerned Scientists, called Friday’s test “significant,” as it shows North Korea has the capability of reaching the U.S. territory of Guam.
“The range of this test was significant since North Korea demonstrated that it could reach Guam with this missile, although the payload the missile was carrying is not known,” Wright noted in a statement. “Guam lies 3,400 kilometres from North Korea, and Pyongyang has talked about it as a target because of the presence of U.S. forces at Anderson Air Force Base.”
For the second time in less than a month, the Japanese government triggered its “J-Alert” warning system, prompting sirens to sound, emergency text messages, and instructions broadcast over loudspeakers telling residents to seek shelter as a result of North Korea’s missile launch.
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Kim Jung Un and his regime have threatened to launch an attack on Guam, sink Japan and reduce the U.S. to “ashes and darkness.”
Though the latest test is “significant,” the Union of Concerned Scientists suggested North Korea’s missiles have low accuracy and it would be hard for the regime to hit a specific target.
“This missile very likely has low enough accuracy that it could be difficult for North Korea to use it to destroy this base, even if the missile was carrying a high-yield warhead,” Wright said. Two significant sources of inaccuracy of an early generation missile like the Hwasong-12 are guidance and control errors early in flight during boost phase, and re-entry errors due to the warhead passing through the atmosphere late in flight.
“I estimate the inaccuracy of the Hwasong-12 flown to this range to be likely five to 10 kilometres, although possibly larger,” the physicist noted.
Friday’s test comes after North Korea was slapped with new United Nations sanctions in an attempt to punish Pyongyang for its sixth nuclear test on Sept. 3.