Earlier this month, North Korea launched an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) test capable of reaching Alaska. Much ink has been spilled as to what this test means for the U.S., how policymakers should address North Korea nuclearization efforts, and the likelihood of war between the two nations.
However, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has yet to display that his regime does indeed possess the technological knowledge needed to successfully fire a nuclear-tipped ICBM to hit the U.S. Miniaturizing a nuclear warhead to fit atop a ballistic missile is just one hurdle, and ensuring it does not tear apart upon atmospheric reentry (no small feat) is another. What is more urgently concerning is the fact that North Korea already has all of the technology it needs to start a damaging war with the U.S. via its short- and medium-range missiles. If America were to go to war with North Korea, it would most likely be in defense or aid of America’s East Asian allies.
The geographic proximity of Japan and South Korea to the hermit kingdom mean artillery or short- and medium-range missiles would suffice if Pyongyang were to conduct a damaging first strike. Unlike trying to hit the U.S. mainland, a target more than 5,000 miles away, Seoul and Tokyo, 121 miles and 798 miles respectively from the North Korean capital, present easier and similarly high-value targets, especially given both cities’ sizable populations.
Read the full article in Fortune Magazine.
More from CNAS
CommentaryA Nightmare for For China: What Would Beijing Do if Kim Jong-un Dies?
A leadership transition in North Korea would present both tremendous risk and opportunity for all stakeholders in Northeast Asia, perhaps most acutely for China. Beijing has l...
By Kristine Lee
CommentaryBreakthrough or Crisis? How Will Coronavirus Impact Tensions with North Korea?
The novel coronavirus pandemic has accelerated geopolitical tensions first in Northeast Asia, with the original outbreak in China, and now around the world as the United State...
By Duyeon Kim
CommentaryChallenging China’s Bid for App Dominance
Social media platforms are emerging as central to China’s efforts to shape the global information architecture....
By Kristine Lee & Karina Barbesino
CommentaryDefense Strategy for a Post-Trump World
In a recent piece warning about an emerging arms race in hypersonic missiles, The New York Times quoted Will Roper, the Air Force’s senior acquisition and technology official,...
By Van Jackson