North Korea Attempts Another Missile Launch

A man watches a TV news program reporting about North Korea's missile firing with a file footage, at Seoul Train Station in Seoul, South Korea, Saturday, April 29, 2017. A North Korean mid-range ballistic missile apparently failed shortly after launch Saturday, South Korea and the United States said, the second such test-fire flop in recent weeks but a clear message of defiance as a U.S. supercarrier conducts drills in nearby waters. The letters on top left, reading "North Korea fired a ballistic missile." (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)

As the UN Security Council was debating North Korea today, the North Koreans conducted another test of what seems to be a medium range KN-17 missile

Via US Pacific Command:

U.S. Pacific Command detected what we assess was a North Korean missile launch at 5:33 a.m. KST April 29. The ballistic missile launch occurred near the Puk Chang airfield.

The missile did not leave North Korean territory.

The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) determined the missile launch from North Korea did not pose a threat to North America.

U.S. Pacific Command stands behind our steadfast commitment to the security of our allies in the Republic of Korea and Japan.

By “did not leave North Korean territory” they mean it broke up in flight shortly after launch. There are stories circulating that this is US hacking but the logical answer is that the North Korean quality control is craptacular and they simply don’t have the manufacturing processes to make missiles that are reliable. A takeaway from this is that their inventory of missiles is probably not much more reliable than the ones they have been testing. If so, then one could expect about 40% of them to fail under combat conditions.

The test was conducted from Suchon, near Pyongyang. This test facility has only been used five time. (You really should play with this database.)

The inference we can draw is that the location and the weapon seem calculated to be minimally confrontational.

The immediate outcome of this will be a new round of US sanctions. These new sanctions, as hinted at today by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson at the UN, will target entities that trade with North Korea. Most of these, oddly enough, are Chinese companies and I would guess that many of them are owned by whatever the Chinese call their oligarchs.

While Trump and Tillerson are crediting China for its cooperation, it seems like the truth is a lot more ambiguous:

And there are reports that North Korean coal is being shipped to Russia and transhipped to China. In short, China will help some but they are not going to do heavy lifting. How they will react to sanctions that hit important Chinese in the wallet is an open question.