The reclusive country of North Korea launched four ballistic missiles early on Monday morning. The barrage landed just 200 miles out from the Japanese coastline, sparking outrage and a strong criticism from Japan’s leader Shinzo Abe, who said the development signifies “an extremely dangerous action,” and a “new level of threat.’
US military observers confirmed that the ballistic weapons originated in North Korea and flew almost 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) towards the Sea of Japan. All four missiles splashed down within Japan’s territorial waters. A fifth missile failed to launch, analysts confirmed.
None of the weapons involved are thought to be Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs), nor did they belong to the newer Musudan-class intermediate ballistic missile. Musudan weapons have a range of about 4,000 km, which puts them within striking distance of China and most of Russia, but it’s just short of the necesary range to hit the United States.
International observers agree that the launch of four ballistic missiles in the direction of Japan is a response to joint military exercises recently conducted between South Korea and the United States. North Korea saw these exercises as a ‘provocation’ and a ‘prelude to invasion.’
This latest show of force by the DPRK has caused renewed calls to deploy a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) grid in South Korea and Japan, both allies of the United States in the area.
THAAD batteries are essentially mobile weapon platforms that target incoming missiles in their terminal approach. THAAD rockets have no warhead. Instead, they rely on sheer kinetic energy to destroy an incoming missile before it reaches its intended target. A kinetic impact minimizes the chances of detonating conventional weaponry, and a nuclear warhead will not explode after a kinetic strike.
State-sponsored media in North Korea reported that Kim Jong Un personally oversaw the launch operation.