Over the past few weeks, North Korea claimed it test-fired a missile from a submarine, and a senior American officer said North Korean missiles are now able to strike the west coast of the United States with nuclear weapons. Then, last week, South Korea tried out a new missile of its own. Details from Neal Conan in today's Pacific News Minute.
Officially, South Korea said little about the new missile, except that it's capable of reaching any part of the North. Unofficially, South Korean news reports credit the Hyundai-Moo 2b with a range of about 310 miles, and a payload of 2,200 pounds. The distance is important...far enough to hit North Korean targets, but not far enough to threaten China or Russia.
When they're deployed, beginning later this year, the new South Korean missiles will carry conventional explosives. According to Admiral William Gortney, commander of NORAD, North Korea now has the ability to put miniaturized nuclear warheads on a mobile missile called the KN-08. That missile is theoretically able to hit the U.S. West coast, though there's no evidence it's been tested, and many experts doubt that North Korea can yet make a nuclear warhead small enough to fit. A mobile launcher makes it much more difficult to intercept, but Admiral Gortney told reporters that if one got airborne, "I'm confident we'll be able to knock it down."
Last month, North Korea released pictures of leader Kim Jong Un exulting as a submarine launched missile blasted out of the water, but independent analysis suggests the pictures were manipulated for propaganda. The missile took off from a barge, experts say, not a submarine, and it may be five years before the North can deploy ballistic missile submarines.