Just how dangerous are North Korean missiles to Russia and the world?
A view of the test-fire of Pukguksong-2 guided by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on the spot. The photo was released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang on Feb. 13, 2017. Source: Reuters
North Korea launched four missiles of unknown specifications, which fell 200 miles from the coast of Japan. Viktor Litovkin, the TASS military analyst, said these were medium-range missiles with a range of 300 to 600 miles.
"They’re based on the Soviet R-17 missile (SS-1c Scud B in U.S. and NATO classification) dating back to the late 1950s," said Litovkin, adding that he was skeptical about the new missile’s capabilities because "the designers failed to program their missiles to fly along a set trajectory."
"Clearly, these are not the final tests, and scientists will be working on a navigation system for the new missiles," continued Litovkin. "So far, they just fell in an area that they managed to reach on existing fuel."
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un guides the test-fire of Pukguksong-2 on the spot. The photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang on Feb. 13, 2017. Source: Reuters
Experts are far more concerned that these missiles could be fitted with nuclear warheads.
"Russia, the U.S., and China do not know for sure how far Pyongyang has advanced in the development of nuclear weapons, and if the warhead is as technologically developed as the missile that goes with it," said Col. General (retired) Leonid Ivashov, head of the International Geopolitical Analysis Center. "This poses a threat not only to South Korea, but to the whole region."
Experts point out that even if North Korea fails to create a full-fledged nuclear warhead installed on a rocket or placed on an aircraft, it still might be able to create a nuclear explosive device, which would carry the additional risk of an unexpected detonation at any stage in the flight.
Passengers watch a television broadcasting a news report on North Korea firing ballistic missiles, at a railway station in Seoul, South Korea, on March 6, 2017. Source: Reuters
What will Russia do?
Kremlin press secretary Dmitry Peskov commented on Russia’s upcoming talks with Japan and China on North Korea’s missile launches.
"We’re seriously concerned by North Korea’s missile launches," said Peskov, reported Kommersant. "They increase tension in the region. We call on all parties to show restraint, and are ready to negotiate with all countries that are interested in resolving this problem."
Experts believe that Moscow won't deploy additional military contingents in the region or strengthen its missile defense system, even though Russia’s Primorsky Krai borders North Korea.
"We will not take unilateral aggressive measures but will instead focus on diplomatic steps within the framework of the UN Security Council, and most likely these will be new sanctions limiting supplies to North Korea, and closing its bank accounts abroad; however, it's unlikely these measures will be effective," said Vasily Kashin, a senior researcher at the department of world economy and world politics at the Center for Comprehensive European and International Studies.