Dhaka, Bangladesh
The threat of nuclear war

The threat of nuclear war

By Sattwick Barman

Understanding the crisis in the Korean Peninsula Why has North Korea ramped up its missile tests? North Korea on Tuesday launched its 22nd missile this year, the most it has fired since it started building its own projectiles in 1984. Like it did in 2009 with Barack Obama, who also had to deal with a North Korean missile fired over Japanese territory (in addition to a nuclear test), Pyongyang seems to be testing U.S. President Donald Trump. This is also a way of driving a wedge into the U.S.'s alliances with Japan and South Korea. Some commentators have raised questions about Washington's commitment to use all available means, including nuclear weapons, if the North attacks, especially since Pyongyang now possibly possesses the means to hit mainland U.S. Which missile did it fire on Tuesday? It was an intermediate-range ballistic missile called the Hwasong-12, which flew over the Japanese island of Hokkaido and splashed into the Pacific. The projectile travelled 2,700 km, just short of the distance it needs to reach the U.S. territory of Guam. Unlike the previous two missiles that flew over Japan, this was the Democratic People's Republic of Korea's first overflight of Japan using a ballistic missile. The missile, which has a 75% failure rate, could have very well crashed into a populated area, causing unimaginable devastation. Engaging Pyongyang: On US-North Korea relations Can Pyongyang hit mainland U.S.? In July, it tested an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) called the Hwasong-14 twice. According to the U.S. government, the missile has a range of 7,000-9,500 km and can reach continental U.S. Depending on the trajectory and payload, it can destroy Chicago and maybe even New York. Is the threat of nuclear war real? According to recent U.S. intelligence assessment, Pyongyang has developed miniaturised nuclear warheads that can fit into its missiles. This coupled with the worrying shift in missile testing patterns under Kim Jong-un - launches are now being conducted all over the country and not just at the conventional test site in Wonsan - indicates that North Korea is possibly preparing all its missile units for nuclear war. What are the chances of an immediate conflict? Mr. Trump has already said that "all options are on the table", while Tuesday's launch has given a fillip to Japanese PM Shinzo Abe's efforts to move the country away from pacifism and strengthen the military. However, the fact that Mr. Kim lobbed the missile over Japan and did not direct it towards Guam shows that he does not want an all-out confrontation yet.

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