North Korean missile destroyed because it was heading to Russia?

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A new report today suggests that the North Koreans purposely destroyed their ballistic missile on Saturday because their tracking indicated it would land in Russia.

According to South Korea’s SE Daily, the ballistic missile would have struck ‘a harbour point or a Russian territory’ if it had not failed. ‘It is for this reason that North Korea intentionally destroyed the missile,’ the website reportedly said. A source is quoted as saying the launch target was ‘different from the previous direction’ and that ‘in the past, we fired 89-90 degrees to the east, and the projectile fell off the East Sea. But the angle of this shot was 49 degrees.’

So far the theories surrounding this missile test include an unintended explosion, a planned explosion, an aborted explosion, and even sabotage. All this suggests to me that the real issue here is that we really don’t have good intelligence behind North Korea’s actions.



  • LocalFluff

    Why would NK send one missile to Russia? Sure, Russia is very vulnerable to missile strikes in its tenuous Pacific bases. Sure, a concerted North Korea strike against Russia would change global politics by eliminating their presence in that hemisphere, for a while. But one missile would be too irrational even for Kim Kim-Kim.

  • LocalFluff asked, “Why would NK send one missile to Russia?”

    They would not. The implication of this story is that the rocket was going off course, and they ordered it to self-destruct so that it would not land in Russia.

  • LocalFluff

    Ah! Well, North Korea’s self-destruct systems works very well. They are world leaders on that stuff.

  • LocalFluff

    North Korea doesn’t have the disadvantage that libertarians very simplified assume because they are a planned economy. NK produces raw minerals and weapons. Raw materials have world market prices that guide them to what is most valuable to extract and export. And the weapons market is a planned economy to begin with globally. There are no market prices for heavy weapons, missiles and nukes. So a planned economy doesn’t have any disadvantages there either.

    The closed society endows them with another set of labor costs, with the upper limit set by violence. Their arms industry is underground. The reason for NK being dark at night is not lack of energy, NK is abundant with the best quality coal, their main export good. The reason NK is dark is that they use all electric power for the underground arms industry. They have perfected Stalinism, socialism in one country, and I think we shouldn’t underestimate that concept’s potential power. Kim might know Mises better than most libertarians.

    North Koreans have fought victoriously against feudalism, Japanese occupation and the Korean war. Always as an underdog. A solution needs to grant them victory, and they are indeed very tough fighters who deserve respect as such, as a continuation of the war story they have grown up with since generations. Since they are at war with the UN, abolishing the UN would be a win-win!

  • Robert Pratt

    I’m regularly amused by all the complex explanations for NK missile failures. Rocketry is “rocket science” and hard. Why does it escape people that the most likley cause of failure is just that, failure? This is a technology starved, backwards society trying to do what is hard even for first-world countries. It is most likley that they’ve perfected nothing and even when getting the math right, the quality of the materials used as well as assembly is substandard.

  • LocalFluff

    Robert Pratt,
    If the information about this launch isn’t fake to begin with, it seems as if it did not enter a trajectory useful for traditional rocket artillery. Either it was a deliberate air burst test or it went completely off course. And in NK now rocket launches are politically very sensitive, and useful. This is about much more than rocket science. Rocket tests have routinely extorted money and appeasement from the coward western politicians who always reward escalating aggression and nuclear proliferation. Until Trump. If they make a successful missile launch, they risk being immediately hit by 154 Tomahawks from USS Michigan and 400 or so more from the USS Carl Vinson carrier group. Politics is indeed a very important for NK rocket launches.

    If it deliberately threatened Russia, it might be because Russia’s presence in the Pacific relies on Vladivostok. If that port and naval base is badly damaged, I think the Russians will have difficulties supporting a Pacific navy. NK could (think that they) benefit from deterring Russia from joining the alliance against them. On the other hand, I think that Russia would be very much interested in occupying the North Korean eastern coast to extend its military influence in East Asia.

    The back bone of NK’s economy is coal. By bombing the 8 or so coal power plants in the country and a couple of dozen bridges in their very mountainous landscape, together with the blockade, their coal cannot be exported or transformed into electricity or used as railroad steam engine fuel. Not only making their extensive coal mining worthless, but they have recently produced only half the electricity they did in the 1980s, so it is a tight sector for them. And with the rails and roads cut up into disconnected pieces, this would quickly cause all kinds of problems including maybe starvation in Pyongyang and among the troops at the border. Key military installations and assets are likely protected in very deep fortifications, but the infrastructure for transports and electricity is on the surface. Just after WW2, USAF evaluated the bombing campaigns against Germany. They concluded that the most efficient targets were utilities supplying the arms industry, not the factories themselves. They didn’t realize how very vulnerable the German electric grid was. In NK it is ancient and said to lose 30% of the energy in transmission resistance. In a modern country it’s more like 3%.

  • Edward

    LocalFluff wrote: “Just after WW2, USAF evaluated the bombing campaigns against Germany. They concluded that the most efficient targets were utilities supplying the arms industry, not the factories themselves. They didn’t realize how very vulnerable the German electric grid was.

    The British figured out this during or even before WWII. The book and movie “The Dam Busters” were about the designer, Barnes Wallis, and the airmen who attacked German dams, with great precision, in order to disrupt Germany’s steel production. The second half of the book continues on with the topic of other precision bombing missions performed by the British 617 Squadron.

    Not only was steel production disrupted, but resources were diverted from the German war effort to repair the damage.

  • wayne

    Highly recommend a 1954 radio-dramatization of “Dam Busters,” done for Australian radio. Introduced by the author with 26 episode’s (at 27 minutes each.)
    Very faithful to the book. Sorta slow in places but they spend a bit of time on character development and telling the story of the 617 Squadron.

  • LocalFluff

    2/3 of NK electricity is hydroelectric. Still, cutting the 1/3 that comes from coal would be cutting into their muscles from today’s low level. Breaching a dam causes huge collateral damage to innocent civilians. Simply disconnecting them from the grid also has the benefit of requiring less exotic bombs.
    North Korea already practices dam warfare of sorts.

    North Korea should be patrolled by aerial drones armed with 40 mm guns. If a truck or car moves, it is probably doing something of importance to the regime and should be destroyed.

  • Edward

    It will take me a while to listen to the entire series, but thank you for the link.

    Disconnecting dams from the grid can be relatively quickly repaired, and is a good solution for a short war or for dams/grids that can be easily attacked. This may work for a resumption of war in North Korea.

    WWII was a war of terror, and enemy civilians were generally considered valid targets and acceptable collateral damage. As it turned out, terrorizing populations did not have the desired result: the population demanding its government sue for peace.

    One of my favorite parts of the book “The Dam Busters” is where the British attacked a German-run factory in France, full of French women working the machines (this is in the second half of the book, after the dams have been busted). The bombers flew a first pass without dropping bombs, making sure that the French workers had enough time to get to shelters. After the war, the British received a letter from one of the French women thanking them for sparing their lives on that attack.

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