China is Using North Korean Crisis to Its Advantage in the South China Sea

China is Using North Korean Crisis to Its Advantage in the South China Sea

North Korea has named its new Intermediate Range Ballistic Missile (IRBM) the Hwasong-12 (KN-17) according to Korean Central News Agency, and said that it can carry a "large scale heavy nuclear warhead."

Yesterday Japanese Self Defense Forces clocked the missile as traveling about 500 miles and reaching a height of 1240 miles during a half-hour successful test-flight. If it had been fired at an optimal trajectory, it could have flown an estimated 2500 to 4350 miles putting Alaska and Hawaii within range. The range on the new Hwasong-12 IRBM dwarf previous launches of the Musudan IRBM with a potential range of 2180 miles. The road mobile, solid fuel, two stage Hwasong-12 IRBM is a derivative of the untested KN-08 Inter Continental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) and first appeared to the public on April 15th but may have been tested in last October and April of this year. Experts have cast doubt on North Korea’s claim that the Hwasong-12 IRBM can carry a “large scale heavy nuclear warhead” at this stage of development, believing that manufacturing a compact warhead is one of the last remaining technological hurdles that North Korea must achieve. Observers also do not believe that North Korea has mastered re-entry technology needed for an ICBM warhead to return from space to its intended target. Furthermore, missile reliability is usually determined after 10 successful launches and by all evidence to date the Hwasong-12 IRBM has not reached that threshold yet.

In reaction to the North Korean threat, US Senator, Dan Sullivan, of Alaska, is reportedly planning to introduce a measure this week to deploy a further 28 ground-based interceptor missiles in Alaska and California, as part of the US Missile Defense system. There is increasing concern that US bases like Guam are not the only potential US targets within North Korea’s missiles range and Hawaii and Alaska are also vulnerable. The launch sideswiped Chinese President, Xi Jinping, and his biggest diplomatic event of the year, the Belt and Road Forum. Speaking in China at the forum, Russian President, Vladimir Putin, condemned North Korea's Hwasong-12 IRBM launch as "dangerous" but warned the US against "intimidating" Pyongyang. The North Korean missile flew within 500 miles of the Russian Pacific Fleet base at Vladivostok and landed in the waters of Russia’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). There are scattered reports that the Russian air defense system failed to detect the launch. This is the second missile launch in the direction of Russian territory. The UN Security Council is expected to discuss the North Korean missile launch Tuesday.

Meanwhile, taking advantage of US good will and attention on North Korea, China has stepped up military preparations in the South China Sea to further assert sovereignty over the vast area, including its man-made islands. Commercial satellite photography has shown that China has deployed Shaanxi KJ-500 turboprop Airborne Early Warning and Control (AEW&C) aircraft along with older Y-8 AEW&C, Y-8 maritime patrol aircraft to Jialaishi Air Base on Hainan island. Images also show that the Chinese military is installing new anti-ship ballistic missile systems on the island. This follows earlier reports that China was deploying HQ-9 surface to air missile systems resembling Russia's S-300 missile defense system, to the Spratly Islands which can contest airspace out about 100 miles from their launch site.

#NorthKorea #IRBM #Japan #SouthChinaSea #XiJinping #AEWC #Russia #MissileDefense

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