North Korea has demonstrated its determination to up the ante in its confrontation with the world community by attempting to fire a missile from its east coast on May 31. It exploded shortly after liftoff– an unusual streak of flops even by the checkered standards of North Korea.This was the latest in a string of unsuccessful ballistic missile tests as the country tries to advance its weapons program in defiance of the United Nations and great powers, including its regional ally China and friendly neighbor Russia – both countries joining other UN Security Council (UNSC) members in strong condemnation of the tests. The UNSC unanimously adopted a resolution in March considered to be the toughest sanctions package in history imposed on the defiant country.
Pyongyang claimed to have successfullytested a submarine-launched ballistic missile in April and released photos of the launch at the time.
The apparent success of the submarine-launched ballistic missile, along with the completion of North Korea’s first launch-capable ballistic missile submarine, is ample cause for concern anywhere within intermediate range. Additionally, there's the KN-08mobile intercontinental ballistic missilebeing developed by North Korea.
Indeed, tensions in Northeast Asia have been running high since Pyongyangconducted its fourth nuclear test in January and followed that with a satellite launch and test launches of various missiles.
There is nothing new when North Korea challenges the world, but this is the first time South Korea takes a game changing decision to launch a program to counter the nuclear threat with a new weapon system of its own. A high-ranking South Korean official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity,said that the country’s navy is also developing its own submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBM), to be installed on new South Korean submarines.
According to him, “On the 3,000-ton Jangbogo-III submarine, which is currently under production, we are installing a vertical launching pad.” He went on to say that the SLBM is being developed under the aegis of the Agency of Defense Development and is expected to be completed by 2020.
The decision is a clear sign that the North Korean actions have triggered an arms race in the region. It happens against the background of US presidential candidate DonaldTrump making statements that he would not rule out a US withdrawal from East Asia, and would consider the possibility of both South Korean and Japan going nuclear – so they would be able to defend themselves without American assistance.
In its turn, South Korea going nuclear will increase the probabilityof a nuclear Japan, Taiwan and other advanced countries of Southeast Asia joining the nuclear arms race.
There is another aspect of the problem. North Korea’s actions provide pretext for the United States to deploy elements of its global ballistic missile defense (BMD) in Asia-Pacific. The program evokes concern in Russia and China as a threat to nuclear stability reducing the capability to deliver a nuclear counterstrike if attacked. The United States and Japan have already deployed Aegis-equipped destroyers with Standard Missile 3 (SM-3) interceptors, Patriot Advanced Capability 3 (PAC-3) batteries, early warning sensors, and advanced radars to meet the threat.
Discussions are on the way regarding the deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense(THAAD) system in South Korea.
Beside South Korea, Japan has considered deployingTHAAD.
Four of the Maritime Self-Defense Force’s six Aegis destroyers are currently equipped with BMD-capable SM-3 interceptors. Japan will upgrade two more by fiscal year 2018. In addition, two more Aegis ships will be procured by fiscal year 2020 to increase the total to eight. The current SM-3 interceptors are based on the Block 1A system. Japan and the United States are jointly developing the Block 2A system, which will have an increased interception range.
Both Russia and China have strongly opposed the deployment of US Ballistic Missile Defence (BMD) system in US forward bases abroad. Both Moscow and Beijing believe that the US BMD system could threaten regional peace and stability and adversely affect their nuclear deterrent capabilities. Russia is undergoing a modernization of its nuclear forces in order to maintain parity with the United States.
These are the far-going consequences of North Korea'sextremeadventurist policy.
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