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North Korea performed another missile launch this Sunday that appears to be successful at putting a satellite in orbit, according to South Korean military sources who spoke with Yonhap News Agency. If suspicions prove correct this would be the second time North Korea has succeeded in launching a satellite into space. Neither South Korea nor the United States have so far confirmed whether they are in communication with North Korean authorities regarding the launch.
“Our leader Kim Jong Un ordered us to launch the Kwangmyongsong-4 (satellite) on February 6, 2016,” was said in a broadcast following the launch on KCTV – North Korea’s official TV channel. “Scientists and technicians succeeded at launching the Kwangmyung 4 into orbit at 9:46 from the launching site in South Pyongyang Province.”
Last month, the US Treasury confirmed that Pyongyang cooperated with Iran to develop a 80-ton booster. Iranian missiles have repeatedly visited North Korea in recent years, and it is suspected that the jointly developed booster was used as the rocket’s first stage in this launch.
Iranian media has reported that the Islamic Republic plans to launch a Simorgh rocket during festivities marking the Iranian Revolution, scheduled to run through 11 February. Iran has publicly expanded its missile programme in recent months, in defiance of international sanctions that prohibit it from doing so. The US is preparing a new set of sanctions against Iran to sanction it for its missile programme.
Iran’s intention of publicly testing its Simorgh rocket, and the cooperation between the two countries, could signify Iran’s confidence in the jointly developed missile technology. The small capacity orbital carrier rocket is capable of delivering a 60 kg payload to a 500 km low-Earth orbit.
This capability in the hands of hostile nations could have devastating consequences for the West. As we have recently written, one of the biggest threats belligerent actors could pose is not with a conventional nuclear strike, but with a low orbit nuclear blast. As a secondary effect, a nuclear explosion sends out an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) that lays waste to all electronic equipment in its path.
Dr Peter Pry, head of the EMP Task Force on National Homeland Security, an advisory board for the US Congress, recently warned of the dangers of such an attack: “If you can come up 300km in the centre of the USA, it will cover all the states and the edge will hit Canada. All with one bomb,” Pry said.
While North Korea’s capabilities are no match to those of the Soviet Union some 60 years ago, the launch of Sputnik signified an end to US nuclear dominance. It announced that the Soviet Union had the capability to launch an attack anywhere in the world. This second successful launch solidifies North Korea’s implied claim that it, too, now has the ability to strike anywhere in the world with catastrophic results.