Mapping the reach of North Korean missiles

April 9, 2015

U.S. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter’s arrival in Southeast Asia this week was met with fireworks. But while the short-range missiles fired by North Korea into the Sea of Japan may have been sent with portentous intent, Carter took them in stride. “If it was a welcoming message to me, I’m flattered,” Carter quipped.

North Korea’s ambitions for long-range weapons are of graver concern. As this Reuters graphic shows, North Korea’s three types of operational ballistic missiles possess relatively limited range, with a maximum reach of 800 miles. That’s close enough to worry Japan, but when discussion shifts to Pyongyang’s aspirations for a working long-range missile, U.S. concern dilates appropriately.

The Taepodong-2 missile boasts a reach of over 4100 miles, enough to reach Alaska. But U.S. military officials are more wary of the KN-08 missile, which enjoys a range of 3700 miles and is portable, making it harder for satellites to track. This week the head of NORAD cryptically hinted that the KN-08 may also be nuclear-capable, a reminder of the stakes at hand.

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