North Korea Unveils Latest Intermediate-Range Ballistic Missile

North Korea launched its latest model in a long line of missiles on February 12, testing its capacity to develop an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) that is capable of threatening American military deployments and the U.S. mainland itself.

According to North Korea’s state-run media, KCNA, the missile launched was the intermediate-range ballistic missile Pukguksong-2. It is capable of mounting a nuclear warhead. The model used also had some improvements over older designs. Although the missile’s range was short of government estimates, crashing into the East Sea after flying approximately 500 kilometers, it allegedly used solid fuel rather than a liquid base. The shift to this fuel source would reduce both launch-preparation times for North Korea and the amount of time for American or South Korean forces to respond to a launch. The improvement was also apparent in the angle at which the missile was launched.

“This missile was launched at an 89 degree angle, very close to a vertical launch,” said Representative Lee Cheol-woo of the National Assembly Intelligence Committee. “The missile may reach over 2,000 kilometers if it is not launched vertically.”

In response to this launch and consequent violation of previous UN sanctions on North Korea’s missile program, China has become involved more forcefully than it has in the past. The Communist Party in China has declared it will temporarily cease imports of North Korean coal, a move with the potential to cripple what little exists of the North Korean economy. North Korea only has a GDP of approximately $17 billion and exports of about $3 billion. Coal accounts for $1 billion of these figures, serving as a colossal boost for the regime. Without this resource, maintaining order may become more difficult for the North Korean government, albeit with severe consequences for human rights and standards of living.