October 4th marked North Korea’s return to going full force on their weapons testing. For the first time in five years, they launched a missile up and over the northern part of Japan, prompting residents to take cover.
Flying 4,600 km (2,850 miles), this was no ordinary test. Traditionally, they have launched with a high swooping arch to avoid flying over or into neighboring islands. Lofting into space allows them to test the biggest limits of their missiles. This change in trajectory allowed them to achieve a new flight path record for themselves.
Responding to the test, the U.S. and South Korean warplanes practiced bombing targets in the Yellow Sea. Japan warned its citizens to take cover and suspended specific train services as the missile passed over its north to land in the Pacific Ocean. For the people of this remote part of Japan, these tests are not unfamiliar from North Korea, but they haven’t happened recently, so many were caught off guard.
Kim Jong-Un’s latest provocation of flexing his muscle is not unexpected. For some time now, he has been coming up with various ways to try and assert any sense of dominance over the region, despite his lack of any dominance. While his people are too brainwashed and weak to fight his regime, over the last few years they have been slipping out of favor with many of the people of North Korea.
This fall from grace has been slow and subtle, but it has also encouraged Kim to undertake provocations like these. His end goal seems to be trigging someone into attacking the country, so he can take the conflict nuclear. In his mind, it would confirm his seat at the big boy’s table of countries with nukes. It would also make him even more God-like in his home country. The problem is, they have yet to conduct a proper nuclear test.
Even their test missiles are only “capable” of reaching Guam or parts of the U.S. on paper. Unlike American, Russian, or even Chinese missiles, the arms of North Korea have never been tested for their full capabilities. The idea of making threats based on theoretical arms is incredibly odd, but for North Korea, it works. The propaganda from this kind of test is incredible for Kim.
Meanwhile, Japan has had enough. While taking no steps to shoot the missile down, Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada is not ruling out future action. From counterattacks to defensive launches, the country is ready to strengthen its defenses in the face of Kim and his attempts to intimidate them and the rest of the globe.
Initial details indicate that this was a Hwasong-12 intermediate-range ballistic missile (IRBM), the same type of missile they last used for this kind of test in 2017. Launched from the Jagang Province, North Korea is fixating on testing from a singular location, with numerous tests occurring here over recent years, including “hypersonic” missiles.
Several leaders in the region have spoken out after the testing. Their comments have been universally seen as signs of disgust at Kim’s decision. With comments including terms like “barbaric,” “reckless,” and “nor a productive path forward,” Kim is painting himself into a corner he may not be able to escape from. While it helps him with real-world testing should he ever really attempt a proper launch, it just upset everyone else.
For decades now, North Korea has been seen as the emotionally unstable little brother in the Asian corner of the world. He tries to show that he is tough, and the older siblings like Japan, South Korea, and China let him have his fun, but are quick to warn him that he’s going the wrong way with things. However, this latest test was too far, and if he keeps it up, he could be finding soldiers from the USA, Japan, and South Korea rolling into Pyongyang.