Photo Credit: CSIS Think Tank
North Korea and its missiles

North Korea has conducted a ground test of a new high-thrust rocket engine to be used for the country’s space and satellite-launching program.

According to a report Sunday by the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) North Korean leader Kim Jong Un called the test, carried out at the Sohae launch site, “a great event of historic significance.”

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North Korea, banned from conducting long-range missile testing, claims its satellite program is intended for peaceful use. But military analysts believe the test of the new rocket engine would further advance North Korea’s goal of being able to create a long-range missile that could reach the United States.

Speaking with journalists in Tokyo last week after talks with Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson cited “20 years of failed approach” which he said “includes a period where the United States provided $1.35 billion in assistance to North Korea as an encouragement to take a different pathway.” Tillerson said clearly the time has come to take a “different approach” with North Korea, inasmuch as diplomatic efforts have failed. Tillerson also visited South Korea and China before wrapping up his first visit to Asia as a Secretary of State.

North Korea has also long been a concern for Israel, due to its nuclear relationship with Iran and its willingness to sell related military hardware to Syria as well.

On Friday, Arab sources claimed that weapons being trucked across northern Syria near Palmyra towards a Hezbollah terrorist base in Lebanon, destroyed in an air strike by the Israel Air Force, were advanced North Korean missiles.

In response, Syria launched a cluster of missiles at the Israeli aircraft, at least one of which was powerful enough to trigger a response for the very first time from the Arrow-3 anti-missile defense system.

A statement issued subsequently by the IDF said only that “several anti-aircraft missiles were launched from Syria” and that its “aerial defense systems intercepted one of the missiles… At no point was the safety of Israeli civilians or aircraft compromised.”

But according to IAI, the Arrow-3 is designed to intercept incoming TBM (theater ballistic missile) threats “above and beyond the ARROW-2 envelope” at altitudes higher than 100 km (62 miles) and in greater ranges, which also raises the question of what kind of missile the Syrians fired at Israel’s fighter pilots on Friday.

The Arrow-3 battery is not designed to be triggered by non-ballistic missiles; it is designed to intercept ballistic missiles, single missiles and salvos of more than five ballistic missiles within 30 seconds, according to the IAI website. The system has the potential to function as an anti-satellite (ASAT) weapon as well, according to Prof. Yitzhak Ben Yisrael, former director of the Israel Administration for the Development of Weapons and Technological Infrastructure and current chair of the Israel Space Agency.

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