The missile that North Korea fired Wednesday appeared to be a four-stage rocket based on old Soviet technology, much less advanced than the rockets being used across the border in China, said Homer Hickam, a former NASA engineer and the author of “Rocket Boys.”
“What the North Koreans have done is taken the technology the Russians developed 50 years ago and upgraded it a little bit and they’re trying to use that old technology to cause a splash in the international scene and to get paid attention to,” he said.
And it seems to have worked.
Chung Min Lee, a professor of international relations at Yonsei University, says the launch was designed to send a message to the United States and China. “Kim Jong Un has told President Obama and Xi Jinping, ‘I am not going to do business as usual. I’ll go down this particular path, come what may.’”
So after 14 years of painstaking labor, North Korea finally has a rocket that can put a satellite in orbit. But that doesn’t mean the reclusive country is close to having an intercontinental ballistic missile.
Experts say Pyongyang is years from even having a shot at developing reliable missiles that could bombard the American mainland and other distant targets, though it already poses a threat to its more immediate neighbors.