North Korea continues to invest a large proportion of its GDP in military spending, despite the fact that it citizens live in poverty.
The Hermit Kingdom carried out another missile test on Thursday, firing what is thought to have been a Musudan intermediate-range ballistic missile (IRBM) from its east coast. However a military official says that the launch was unsuccessful..
Second unsuccessful launch in the space of a few weeks
North Korea already tried to launch the same missile on April 15. The previous launch was also a failure.
“North Korea tried to launch a missile believed to be a Musudan from an area near Wonsan at about 6:40 a.m.” the official said on the condition of anonymity. “The launch is presumed to have failed as the missile fell into the sea a few seconds after liftoff.”
The launch was detected by a United States reconnaissance satellite. Both the U.S. and South Korea are investigating the exact cause of the crash.
In the first failed launch it appears that the missile exploded during its booster phase. This meant it didn’t have time to fix its angle and enter orbit.
IRBMs could reach U.S. bases on Guam
Musudan missiles, also known as BM-25, have a range of 3,000-4,000 kilometers. As a result they can reach Guam, where U.S. naval and air bases are situated.
North Korea first deployed the Musudan missiles in 2007. At that stage they had not carried out any tests. These two consecutive failed tests indicate that North Korea’s missile program is less complete than many had thought, according to military experts.
South Korean armed forces are preparing for possible provocations from the North. This may include a fifth nuclear test. It is thought that a new test could take place around the seventh ruling Workers’ Party Congress on May 6.
North Korea has continued to test missiles and nuclear weapons despite United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolutions prohibiting it from doing so. Harsher sanctions were introduced in March following a fourth nuclear test in January and a long-range missile test in February.
However those sanctions have done little to convince North Korea to end military testing. In fact Pyongyang has protested the ruling by firing short- and mid-range missiles, while also testing a new 300-millimeter multiple-rocket launcher.
North Korea facing tough choices
Military tensions in the Korean Peninsula continue to be high. North Korea has called for an end to joint U.S.-South Korea military drills, which Pyongyang alleges are being held in preparation for an invasion of its territory.
Pyongyang continues to invest 25% of GDP in military spending at the expense of living conditions for its citizens. Nuclear weapons in particular are seen as a trump card that preserves the country’s independence and freedom from foreign independence. For a country that long suffered under imperialism, this is of paramount importance.
While the leadership and many citizens say that the nuclear program keeps North Korea strong, the calorie deficit among the population continues to rise. Some academics argue that economic sanctions only hurt the poor, as they have had little effect on curbing North Korea’s nuclear ambitions.
Despite the loss of much needed foreign aid and ever more stringent economic sanctions, North Korea pushes forward with its military programs. The question now is how much longer can the country survive under these policies.