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Trump Says North Korea Short-Range Missiles Are No Big Deal — Here’s Why He’s Wrong

On Thursday, North Korea launched another short-range missile, after which President Donald Trump dismissed it as something not to worry over.

Photo by Kim Hong-Ji-Pool/Getty Images

Trump told reporters at the White House that the short-range missile tests weren’t part of an agreement between him and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. The two instead agreed that Pyongyang wouldn’t launch long-range missile tests, the president explained.

“Short-range missiles, we never made an agreement on that. I have no problem. We’ll see what happens. But these are short-range missiles, they’re very standard,” Trump said, per a tweet from ABC News.

North Korea has launched three short-range missiles over the past week, further reporting from ABC News indicated — two earlier this week, and one on Thursday.

Experts on the short-range missile Trump said was “standard” disagree with his assertions. Here’s why.

The missile in question is reportedly the KN-23 short-range missile. The missile has a range of just under 430 miles, and can be outfitted with a nuclear device. If launched from Pyongyang, that means it could hit any target in neighboring South Korea, parts of China, and go just beyond the shoreline of Japan.

The fact that the device could reach two U.S. allies in the Pacific from North Korea is itself reason to worry. But there’s more: according to an analysis from Elias Groll at Foreign Policy magazine, the missile has the capability of hiding under standard radar detection methods, even ones as sophisticated as the U.S. military has stationed in South Korea. Groll explains how it works:

“After it blasts off, the KN-23 first travels on a standard ballistic trajectory — imagine the arc in which a golf ball travels after it is struck. But then it does something unusual: As it’s falling to the Earth at around six times the speed of sound, the missile pulls up and travels more parallel to the Earth before it sharply dives down toward its target. The missile may fly at an altitude that exploits a breach in the various U.S. missile defense systems, and its maneuvers make it harder to shoot down.”

White House national security adviser John Bolton also talked down the significance of the tests, the Washington Post reported.

“I think that the president taking this really unusual step of meeting Kim Jong Un at the demilitarized zone on June the 30th, walking into North Korea, has once again opened the door for North Korea to make a strategic decision to give up nuclear weapons and walk through it, into a different future,” Bolton said.



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