Why North Korea's Failed Missile Launch Matters

Tyler Durden's picture

Submitted by Ian Armstrong via GlobalRiskInsights.com,

The recent failure of North Korea’s missile tests reaffirms the deficiencies of its ballistic and nuclear programs. Perversely, it also increases the risk of an imminent greater destabilizing behavior.

On April 15th, Pyongyang attempted and failed a test launch of a land-based ballistic missile that, if properly deployed, is capable of hitting a target 2,400 to 3,200 miles away.

One week later, leader Kim Jong Un conducted a second missile test via submarine. While the follow-up was more successful than the first (which exploded within seconds of lift-off), it only traveled for a mere 30 km — shy of the standard 300 km needed for a ballistic missile launch to be considered successful.

Outwardly, these two failures appear to demonstrate that Pyongyang’s ballistic missile and nuclear programs are still relatively unsophisticated and incomplete. These conclusions, however, are superficial. In reality, both launches have revealed the increasing capability and ambition of North Korea’s atomic efforts.

They have also — through their publicly lackluster outcomes — elevated the short-term risk of further sporadic, destabilizing military actions from the Kim regime, with damaging implications for international security and finance.

Hastened progress on DPRK nuclear program

The April 15th and April 23rd missile tests are a clear continuation of the increasingly frequent antagonistic efforts undertaken by North Korea, otherwise known as the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK). As a result of various nuclear and missile technology tests conducted by the rogue regime earlier in 2016, Pyongyang’s nuclear capacity has been increasing at an accelerated rate.

Although both tests were, at least from a definitional standpoint, unsuccessful, they serve to compound this accelerated trend of technological progression — and therefore geopolitical instability.

First and foremost, North Korea gains a significant amount of technological know-how from missile tests regardless of the degree to which they succeed. The lessons learned from the April tests, in spite of their failures, will be applied to future missile iterations and ultimately hasten the pace at which the DPRK develops vehicles for delivering nuclear payloads. In short, the rate at which tests occur is a strong indicator for the speed of program development.

Furthermore, while both tests failed by large margins in achieving the full-flight of a non-tactical ballistic missile, to label the second attempt as a complete “failure” is a misnomer. For one, the launch represented clear improvement from North Korea’s previous submarine-launched missile test in December, which failed at ignition.

It also utilized a more energetic and sophisticated fuel source that was not previously recognized as a functioning component North Korea’s missile repertoire. In achieving at least 30 km of missile flight, the DPRK has thus demonstrated a faster than expected growth in WMD-related abilities.

Greater likelihood of provocations

On its own, North Korea’s growing missile capacity has thus far done little to stoke the kind of geopolitical tension that steadily contributes to volatility in financial markets. The one exception appears to be the short-term volatility that follows full-scale North Korean nuclear tests.

Prior to the April missile tests, South Korean intelligence agencies had already concluded that a fifth DPRK nuclear test would occur in 2016, specifically pointing to satellite imagery showing the resumption plutonium production and increased activity at known nuclear test zones.

Unfortunately, the fact that these two particular launches performed below the standards of successful ballistic missile tests increases the chance that another North Korean nuclear test is imminent within next 1-3 months. In May, Kim Jong Un will oversee the 7th Congress of the Workers’ Party of Korea, an extremely rare meeting of North Korea’s highest political body that last occurred in 1980.

North Korea tests

Timeline of Previous North Korean Nuclear Tests

At the Congress, it will be in the interest of the Kim regime to underscore his contributions to the progress of North Korea’s military, the core of which is its rogue nuclear program. As such, it is likely that Kim will utilize a powerful nuclear test to erase any notion of failure brought about by the lackluster tests in April.

North Korea’s nuclear tests may not have demonstrated the full-flight capacity that world powers have sought to prevent for decades, but they do impose a greater short-term risk of a nuclear test to compensate. Such a risk entails both heightened geopolitical tensions and brief financial volatility, particularly in the Japanese and South Korean markets, where the threat from North Korea is most acute.

Perhaps acknowledging the greater likelihood of a nuclear trial, North Korea offered world powers a diplomatic solution on Sunday: Cease U.S.-South Korea military exercises, and DPRK nuclear tests will halt. Knowing the hollowness of Pyongyang’s word, both countries declined. If diplomatic history is any indicator, there is little that world powers can or will do to prevent North Korea’s looming nuclear test.

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Bokkenrijder's picture

So, what to do?

Killary will sort it out in 2017! ;-)

eforce's picture

Trump gets elected, NK nukes California, Trump exploits it like Reichstag fire and Nazi America is born and nukes NK.

Down arrow if you agree.

techpriest's picture

NK is not much different than a street thug trying to rob a bank. Instead of going in and systematically killing everyone in the bank, they are waving the proverbial gun in the air in the hopes that people will be scared into giving them more foreign aid.

Without China backing them up, no one would take NK seriously. It's all a play to keep the Kims in power and to keep the outside money flowing in so as to stave off collapse. Remove that, and the regime has no hope of survival.

techpriest's picture

Might as well add the Tom Woods episode on this - The man interviewed is Michael Malice, and among other things he shows the perverse logic behind the supposed "stupidity" of the regime.


0b1knob's picture

Have you ever noticed that at Zero Hedge "good news" is somehow always "bad news?"

And the the bad news is also alway even worse news.   And gold is ALWAYS ABOUT TO SOAR!!!

techpriest's picture

Just wait until it actually does. Lots of great article graphics ;)

Larry Dallas's picture

Any provocation - successful or dud - will drive Trump to the White House.

Same with any refugee crisis or rapes in Europe. Its good news for us.

MansaMusa's picture

@eforce: I thought Guccifer said Chicago and a city in Pennsylvania? 

pods's picture

No doubt they didn't use actual Duct tape and used a cheap knock off instead.

Come on, they present a grave danger to S Korea, but there is no way they are going to be able to build a launchable nuke.

These two tests probably put them back another 20 years as Little Man probably executed every high level scientist they had.

N Korea, in a nuclear sense, is way more of a danger to N Korea than anyone else.


Watson's picture

Personally, don't really believe NK has a viable nuclear weapon at all.

What they have, IMHO, is a small amount of fissionable material,
which they surround with Ktons of conventional explosive, and then detonate.

Result is a small amount of radionuclides (which get detected).

NK doesn't do above-ground detonations (which would prove the point from various effects that could be picked up by satellite), and the yields look suspiciously low.
Kim's personality is such that he isn't going to accept (unless he has to) his first
few nuclear bangs being any less than those of the US (which were 15-20Kt).
So it follows that he's got no more handle on fission weapons that he has of missiles - actually, probably less.

And forget H-bombs - the first US detonation (not a deliverable weapon) was Ivy Mike at 10+M(not K)t.


silver sword's picture

"What difference, at this point, does it make?"

PT's picture

It's all okay.  Ronald Reagan put up an anti-missile shield that protected the whole of the United States.  Remember?  Remember?  He did so too!

MansaMusa's picture

@PT:  I only remember bush taking down any defense America had during 9/11; no jets to scramble out, no patriot middles to shoot down enemy planes, nothing.

You can read about it in the missing 28 pgs of the 9/11 report...

KnuckleDragger-X's picture

The Norks are completely divorced from reality. The problem is you can't predict the actions of the insane, and I really do expect an act of supreme stupidity in the not too distant future.......

pods's picture

I see a Darwin award writ large.


PT's picture

If only the NorKs would borrow moar munny from our Central Banks.  Then suddenly they would be a lovely peaceful nation and we could send tourists there and they could send tourists here and we could be best friends!

prymythirdeye's picture

Why North Korea's Bullshit Fake, Failed Missile Launch Doesn't Matter

There, fixed if for ya ZH

Took Red Pill's picture

The US responds. Now we have to put up a shield for the failed attempt.  It's all just an excuse for moar war!



E.F. Mutton's picture

In the land of Giant Rabbit Programs and Daffy Duck Film Festivals, crazy is the norm, and anything is possible.


papa song's picture

Finally.  Their superior democratic socialist nation will join the exclusive club of nations which glow on nighttime satellite images.


PT's picture

Save the environment.  Turn your lights off at night time!

zero_wedge's picture

Democratic People's Republic? Really?

techpriest's picture

Where else have we heard about "democratic values?"

silverserfer's picture

cant get it up? most dishonorable! The dogs will eat good tonight!

youngman's picture

That guy is so looney...I would expect anything from him...he is really in his own world...very strange...only one haircut there is approved....

cheech_wizard's picture

I remember when Leon "fucktwit" Panetta was director of the CIA and telling us all how Los Angeles was going to be the target of a North Korean ICBM.

It was not that long ago (April 19, 2012) that Panetta said the following: The United States is prepared for "any contingency" when it comes to dealing with North Korea, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta told CNN.

"We're within an inch of war almost every day in that part of the world, and we just have to be very careful about what we say and what we do," Panetta said Wednesday on "The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer." During a wide-ranging interview at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Panetta and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton talked about Syria, the Secret Service and North Korea. The two were in Belgium for meetings to prepare for a NATO summit in Chicago next month. Panetta's assessment of North Korea followed last week's launch by Pyongyang of a long-range rocket. Despite the failure of the launch -- with the rocket breaking apart 81 seconds after liftoff, it drew condemnation from the United States and countries in the region. Standard Disclaimer: Seems that chubby little dictator just can't get it up.
Lugnut's picture

The Nazi's were getting 300km out of their V2s in 1944. The Norks should just copy those things. Apparently it IS rocket science

Strelnikov's picture

Main worry about this that the Norks might accidently hit something with their shitty missles.   That sounds like a joke but their inability to control these things juist might spark a war unintentionally.

roadhazard's picture

Un is the least of the problems in the world.

Westcott Canon's picture

I see "Moe" putting some scientist against a wall and shooting them with a antiaircraft gun for failure to launch a missile. Being a insane dictator in which you want to blow up the world can be such a difficult job. 

PGR88's picture



THe USA is accorded too high a status in this.  YES - the DPRK wants international recognition from the world organs over which the USA has control.  BUT - the DPRK does not fear the USA.  The US has no influence in North Korea whatsoever.


Who do they fear?  China.   China is on their border, share millions of people with Korean-Chinese ethnicity, and controls much of their food and energy.  China likely has many clandestine contacs throughout DPRK government and military.   China could have 250,000 soliders on DPRK border within a week.   If the Kim regime ever faces a coup, that coup will have been approved and supported by China.

Kirk2NCC1701's picture

No doubt NK's nukes & ballistics program is an "existential threat" for Bibi also, because they have been known to sell their tech in the past. E.g. To Syria, to whom they sold a nuclear reactor.

But then I also noticed that an "existential threat" exists in those countries, that do NOT have a Usury-based, private Central Bank, i.e. a CB that's not part of the Globalist Banksters Cartel.

Kirk2NCC1701's picture

Maybe NK had a "Failure to Launch", because they did not put VIAGRA in the rocket fuel?

Skiprrrdog's picture

Why dont we just nuke that greasy little pig and be done with it?

Parrotile's picture

Why don't we just nuke the Global Bully and be done with it?

On the basis of recent past history, the reduction in "acceptable collateral losses" = deaths Worldwide, would be certainly more acceptable (to paraphrase one Donald Rumsfeld - http://www.commondreams.org/views/2009/08/02/how-many-civilian-deaths-ar... )

East Indian's picture

Next Iraq. 

I find the demand, "Dont encourage my estranged brothers and cousins against me! Else, I will hit you" to be human; may be unreasonable, but human, still.

Not unreasonable either, come to think of it. Korea was broken into two, to prevent the whole from following China (which they were doing for centuries) into Communism. US supported the one; Communists supported the other. You armed your pet, they armed their pet. Ok, i can follow.

Their pet has failed; yours has become successful. Ok.

Your pet has some sympathies for their pet. Left to themselves, they will certainly reach some mutual accomodation. It may not be to your liking, but then they are brothers and cousins after all.

But no, we must have moar villains...


India was broken into two.

Palestine was broken into two. 

Ireland was broken into two.

Vietnam was broken into two.

Germany was broken into two.

Korea was broken into two.

All to what purpose? To uphold dharma? God.

East Indian's picture

While typing this, it occurred to me:

Northern Ireland will flare up again, if Britain leaves the EU.