Early on the morning of Saturday August 10, North Korea fired another round of missiles from the Hamhung area towards the East Sea. The launch marked the second round of testing in a week and the seventh round this year.
ROK-US intelligence personnel have determined that the projectile launched on August 6 was a KN-23 missile, similar to the Russian Iskander missile. But the missile fired on the 10th resembled the profile of the US-made Army Tactical Missile System (ATacMS).
After the launch, North Korea’s Minister of Foreign Affairs again pressed the South Korean government saying, “Until you cancel the ROK-US military exercises, or at least sincerely make a plausible excuse or explanation for the exercises, I believe North-South dialogue will be challenging.”
At the same time, he characterized South Korea’s response to the North’s tests as “intrud[ing] where it is not wanted” and needlessly “missing a [sic] good sleep at dawn.”
After hearing such remarks, we are reminded of Kim Jong Un’s promise, during the adoption of the Panmunjom declaration on April 27, to usher in “a new era of national reconciliation and peaceful prosperity between North and South Korea,” and wonder what happened to that promise.
Furthermore, North Korea’s missile test on the 6th was a risky experiment.
According to an article in the Rodong Sinmun on August 7, “Two tactical guided missiles fired from the western airfield of our country (North Korea), flew over the capital area (Pyongyang) and the central inland, and precisely hit the target island set in the East Sea.”
According to an analysis by ROK-US intelligence authorities, these missiles flew past Pyongyang and the southern outskirts of Nampo to hit a small, rocky island (Al Island) approximately 450 kilometers off the coast of Kimchaek in North Hamgyong Province.
Looking at the photos that North Korea has made public, it is reasonable to conclude that the missile was armed with explosives.
By firing the missiles over Pyongyang where several million residents live, Kim Jong Un may have been showing to the world his confidence in the safety and precision of the missile. But for whatever reason, if one such missile fell on Pyongyang, there would have been a devastating loss of life.
So many are saying that “if Kim Jong Un and his family were in Pyongyang at the time of the launch, he wouldn’t have flown the missile over Pyongyang’s skies.”
According to military experts, no matter how confident one is in the safety and precision of their missiles, no one risks sending missiles near the airspace of a major city.
Even in North Korea during the eras of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Un, for the safety of the people near the capital, trains and trucks loaded with gunpowder were never permitted to pass through Pyongyang. Such vehicles were made to travel around the city, and no missiles were tested over the skies of the capital.
Furthermore, since last May, North Korea has invested a significant sum of money in conducting seven rounds of missile launches and rocket launcher tests.
The missile that North Korea launched on the 6th, similar to the Iskander and South Korean Hyunmoo-2A missiles, costs an estimated 2 billion won. North Korea may have spent less, as it is unlikely that the regime paid any labor costs. But even so, every launch of an Iskander-type KN-23 missile is a waste of precious resources that would be better spent on the country’s faltering economy.
Moreover, the more missiles North Korea fires, the more the citizens of South Korea and neighboring countries will grow anxious and foment negative feelings towards the North.
When I came to South Korea, I found that South Koreans do not desire another civil war with the North. If Kim Jong Un decides to disarm and chart a different path, then 80 million South and North Korean people could all thrive.
North Korea should not spend its precious resources on developing new weapons. To be recognized as a normal state, Kim Jong Un should first invest in the North Korean people’s lives, return to the spirit of “our nation’s people,” and support dialogue between the two Koreas.
*Views expressed in Guest Columns do not necessarily reflect those of Daily NK.