North Korea Fine Tunes its Short-Range Missile Strike Capabilities

North Korea conducted three separate tests that launched two projectiles each on July 25 (KN-23 missiles similar to Russia’s Iskander missile), July 31 (new large-caliber, multiple launch, guided rocket systems), and August 2 (SRBM or new large-caliber, multiple launch, guided rocket systems). North Korea also announced its new submarine capable of carrying three or four SLBMs at the Sinpo South Shipyard on July 23, shortly before the first of the latest trio of projectile launches.

These three projectile launches, all within the past eight days, demonstrate North Korea’s intention to perfect its short-range strike capabilities, guidance systems, and solid fuel development. 

The launches are likely a response to scheduled Dongmaeng 19-2, U.S.-South Korea joint tabletop exercises expected to start later this month, as well South Korea’s acquisition of F-35 stealth fighter jets.

The launches also build leverage for North Korea in advance of potential working-level denuclearization talks with the United States that were promised after the June 30 Panmunjom meeting between Trump and Kim.

President Trump’s refusal to acknowledge the significance of these provocations not only delinks peninsular security from that of the homeland, but also ensures that North Korea will conduct more tests in the future.

Meanwhile, allied coordination in the face of North Korea’s actions has been complicated by the downturn in Japan-South Korea relations, including potential disruptions in the GSOMIA intelligence sharing agreement, and apparent Trump administration demands for massive increases in defense cost sharing talks with South Korea.