Monthly Archives: June 2016

Guam is the only US territory North Korea could hope to reach with its missiles

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[From an analysis by John Schilling, an American aerospace engineer with more than 20 years of experience, specializing in rocket and spacecraft propulsion and mission analysis.]

North Korea recently did something it has never done before: it tried to launch its Musudan  missile four times in two months, and failed every time. North Korea’s missiles usually fail the first time. In the past, the North Koreans have always done what sensible engineers do in the face of failure — stand down, figure out what went wrong, and fix it before trying again.

The Musudan missile seems to be based on a 1960s-era Soviet design with some local modifications. It appeared to be a mobile intermediate-range missile capable of delivering a nuclear warhead as far as the critical U.S. base at Guam.

Guam is the only sovereign U.S. territory North Korea could hope to reach with its current weapons.

Any North Korean test also raises the question of capability: Can they blow us up with nuclear missiles now? The answer is pretty clearly that they can’t blow up anybody but themselves with Musudan missiles. It is possible that they will retrench and give their engineers time to fix the problems, and maybe come back with a working missile in a year or two.

North Korea has also been working on a small ballistic-missile submarine, and a new solid-fuel intermediate-range missile. These have the potential to be more capable and versatile systems than the Musudan would have been, but they aren’t likely to enter service before 2020.

Today, all we have to worry about are the thousand or so short- and medium-range missiles with which North Korea could attack targets in South Korea and Japan, and the dozen or so nuclear warheads they may be able to mount on some of those missiles.


Yeonmi Park: “We North Koreans can be experts at lying, even to ourselves.”

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Growing up under the repressive regime of Kim Jong-il in North Korea, Yeonmi Park was taught never to express her opinions or ask questions. The dictator, she believed, could read her mind. Her mother gave her a warning: “Even when you think you’re alone, the birds and mice can hear you whisper.”

Now 22 and living in New York, Park has found her voice. So much so, that North Korea published an 18-minute video online, featuring Park’s relatives, in an attempt to discredit her stories of her former home.

“If a dictator hates you, you’re in good shape. You’re a good activist,” Park says.

Park grew up in a small, one-storey house in Hyesan, near the border with China, during the years of the North Korean famine which claimed more than a million lives. Her book recounts the horrifying images that came to seem normal to her as a child. Bodies in rubbish heaps, frozen babies abandoned in allies, desperate people crying out for help on the streets and long queues for fresh water on freezing days.

“Maybe deep, deep inside me I knew something was wrong. But we North Koreans can be experts at lying, even to ourselves,” Park writes.

On a dark and cold night in early 2007, Park, then 13, and her mother made the dangerous journey across the border to China guided by human smugglers. Nearly two years later, Park and her mother escaped and crossed the Gobi Desert to Mongolia and then flew to South Korea.

It was Park’s emotional speech about her experiences delivered at the One Young World summit in 2014 that garnered global attention. The video of her speech has been viewed more than 2 million times on YouTube.

[Sydney Morning Herald]