Triggering warning: Mention of war, explosives and government hostilities.
For the first time in five years, North Korea has tested an intercontinental ballistic missile. These missiles, commonly referred to as ICBMs, can travel across continents up to 3,000 miles from their point of departure. There are more than 20 countries within range of a North Korean strike, including countries like China, India, Russia and Japan. What does this mean for the state of the world? Only time will tell.
Retired Navy Captain Thomas Crowell, a lecturer at UTSA who was stationed in Japan while serving in the US Navy, shared his perspective on the subject.
“Given that we have a lot of other things going on in the world now, especially Russia-Ukraine and COVID and so on, North Korea may think at this time that it makes more sense for them to back to a more provocative response-type engagement with the United States and with the rest of the world… I think the United States must now honor – and the rest of the world must honor again – North Korea. It’s a reminder that they are a nuclear-capable country, a nuclear-weapon-capable country, and they have missiles that give them the means to deliver that kind of destruction,” Crowell said.
Crowell also responded to the recent debate over whether a new type of ICBM is being tested or if it is the same model from 2017.
“I think the key takeaway isn’t necessarily whether they develop a new, more sophisticated weapon or whether they take an older weapon and just throw it, I think the most important thing is that they launch an intercontinental ballistic missile at all,” Crowell said. “So it’s the launch itself, not so much the type of weapon. I think that’s the important thing.”
Crowell also touched on how many people overlooked certain aspects of the launch.
“I think what people don’t know is where the missile flew. It’s a missile rated to have a range of over 3,000 miles. It can travel continents, it could span at least parts of the United States or US territories. However, for this particular test launch, they basically launched it up and down. It came out of North Korea and landed in the Sea of Japan just east of North Korea… It was a weapons system demonstration, not necessarily a geopolitical signal,” Crowell said.
Associate Professor Matthias Hofferberth, Ph.D., of UTSA’s Department of Political Science and Geography, commented on North Korea’s behavior regarding the Russian-Ukrainian conflict.
“I think the unrest caused by Putin’s war created an opportunity. For one thing, the West is looking the other way right now and unlikely to respond. On the other hand, and linked to the first, the launches brought North Korea back and reminded that since 2017, the country’s ambition and the stake [has] never left. That said, I don’t think it’s about dominance since it remains unclear whether the missile used was indeed new and even if so, there are other nuclear powers other than the United States easily dominate[s]said Hofferberth.
Hofferberth also noted, like Crowell, that the type of missile does not matter as much as the launch itself.
“…in the end it doesn’t matter whether it is a Hwasong-15 or a Hwasong-17. It is however clear that there is a lot of secrecy on the matter and that the regime The less we know, the more we are worried and yet there is nothing else we can do [other] than the sanctions we drafted years ago,” Hofferberth said.