N. Korea Missile Launch
Launch capability has gone from a joke to very serious
Published on June 27, 2016
A brief history
On February 7, 2016, roughly a month after an alleged hydrogen bomb test, North Korea claimed to have put a satellite into orbit around the Earth. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzō Abe had warned the North to not launch the rocket, and if it did and the rocket violated Japanese territory, it would be shot down. Nevertheless, North Korea launched the rocket anyway, claiming the satellite was purely intended for peaceful, scientific purposes. Several nations, including the United States, Japan, and South Korea, have criticized the launch, and despite North Korean claims that the rocket was for peaceful purposes, it has been heavily criticized as an attempt to perform an ICBM test under the guise of a peaceful satellite launch. China also criticized the launch, however urged "the relevant parties" to "refrain from taking actions that may further escalate tensions on the Korean peninsula".
While some North Korean pronouncements have been treated with skepticism and ridicule, analysts are treating the unusual pace of North Korean rocket and nuclear testing in early 2016 quite seriously. At an extreme, Admiral Bill Gortney, head of the North American Aerospace Defense Command, told Congress in March 2016, "It's the prudent decision on my part to assume that [Kim Jong Un] has the capability to miniaturize a nuclear weapon and put it on an ICBM," suggesting a major shift from a few years earlier.
North Korea appeared to launch a missile test from a submarine on 23 April 2016; while the missile only traveled 30 km, one U.S. analyst noted that "North Korea's sub launch capability has gone from a joke to something very serious".