Picture: GALLO IMAGES/AFP/KCNA VIA KNS
Picture: GALLO IMAGES/AFP/KCNA VIA KNS

File this under “What could possibly go wrong?”

North Korea this week launched a missile. You’re probably shrugging your shoulders, but don’t.

This time, it’s different. The missile officially falls into the category “ICBM”, the first two letters of which stand for “intercontinental” — with the two continents here being Asia and North America.

That’s right — as of now, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, who personally supervised the test launch, can press a red button and a rocket bearing a nuclear warhead will be launched into space, returning to earth on US soil somewhere in Alaska.

You might still be shrugging. It will be years, you’re telling yourself, before North Korea is capable of weaponising such a rocket. And even then, it will have to make its way through US defences.

That’s probably true. But it has turned an academic geopolitical stalemate into a military confrontation, albeit purely at the level of threat and counterthreat.

Ahead of the North Korean launch, the US released information on how it would interdict such a missile, spotting it from space, then tracking it with several ground radar stations before eliminating it with an antimissile missile.

The North Koreans issued a statement in which they bragged about their new capacity. And the South Koreans, who are in the direct line of fire, began to speculate about what it all means.

Reuters quoted Kim Dong-yub, a military expert at Kyungnam University in Seoul, South Korea, as saying: “It appears the test was successful. If launched on a standard angle, the missile could have a range of more than 8,000km.”

South Korean President Moon Jae-in convened a meeting of his national security council.

Across the Pacific, US President Donald Trump was moved to tweet. (“North Korea has just launched another missile. Does this guy have anything better to do with his life?”)

Trump signalled that this was a major international matter by sending out more than one tweet.

Another read: “Hard to believe South Korea and Japan will put up with this much longer. Perhaps China will put a heavy move on North Korea and end this nonsense once and for all!”

The tweets appear to have had no effect on North Korea.

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