Foreign Policy Research Institute A Nation Must Think Before it Acts North Korea’s ICBM Test, Byungjin, and the Economic Logic

North Korea’s ICBM Test, Byungjin, and the Economic Logic

The Diplomat

On Tuesday July 4, North Korean television announced that the country had successfully tested an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) earlier in the day. As per the Wall Street Journal

The missile, identified as the Hwasong-14, was launched at a steep trajectory and flew 933 kilometers (580 miles), reaching an altitude of 2,802 kilometers, according to North Korean state television. The numbers are in line with analyses from U.S., South Korean and Japanese military authorities.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson later confirmed that the launched missile was an ICBM, adjusting an earlier U.S. assessment that it was an intermediate range ballistic missile.

Here in Seoul, things seemed to continue on as usual, which tends to be the case in this city more than used to similar news. The biggest strategic consequence, of course, is for the United States. A successful intercontinental ballistic missile of this sort could potentially strike anywhere in Alaska.

With the latest launch, North Korea took one step further along the nuclear side of the byungjin line of parallel development of nuclear weapons and the national economy, and arguably, one step back on the economic side of the dual-track policy. In the formulation of the byungjin line, of course, both are interrelated. Missile launches are often described as evidence of progress in industry and science, ultimately benefiting economic progress. This launch was no exception, as seen in KCNA’s statement on July 4 (emphasis added):

The success in the test-fire of inter-continental ballistic rocket Hwasong-14, final gate to rounding off the state nuclear force, at just one go is a powerful manifestation of the invincible state might and the tremendous capability of the self-reliant national defense industry of Juche Korea that has advanced at a remarkably rapid pace under the great Workers’ Party of Korea’s new line on the simultaneous development of the two fronts, and a great auspicious event to be specially recorded in the history of the DPRK which has long craved for powerful defense capabilities.

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