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North Korea’s Weapon Innovations Could Render THAAD Totally Useless

© Flickr / Mark HollowayThe US Army's Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) interceptor, coming soon to South Korea.
The US Army's Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) interceptor, coming soon to South Korea. - Sputnik International
The US’ Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile system in South Korea has prompted Pyongyang to create ballistic missiles with the specified purpose of neutralizing THAAD’s capabilities, according to a new government report.

The Congressional Research Service reports that the North has created missiles to cruise at angles THAAD may not be able to intercept. Once these ballistic missiles re-enter the Earth’s atmosphere, nuclear warheads attached to them could fly at steeper angles and move at higher velocities, capturing more gravitational potential energy. 

A Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) interceptor arrives at Osan Air Base in Pyeongtaek, South Korea, in this handout picture provided by the United States Forces Korea (USFK) and released by Yonhap on March 7, 2017. Picture taken on March 6, 2017 - Sputnik International
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North Korea’s innovation could make these missile threats “potentially more difficult to intercept with a missile defense system,” the research service said.

Furthermore, “North Korea has demonstrated an ability to launch a salvo attack,” a series of missile launches with virtually no lag time in between. This presents another threat THAAD may not be capable of blocking, according to the report. “This is consistent with a possible goal of being able to conduct large ballistic missile attacks with large raid sizes,” the report warns.

North Korea has also experimented with a number of submarine-launched ballistic missiles over the course of at least two years, which could simply fall outside of the THAAD system’s radar capacity.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un waves during a military parade on Saturday, April 15, 2017, in Pyongyang, North Korea to celebrate the 105th birth anniversary of Kim Il Sung, the country's late founder and grandfather of current ruler Kim Jong Un. - Sputnik International
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While some suspect Pyongyang’s missile tests have been just another exercise in saber-rattling, the CRS notes that the tests could in fact be “intended to increase the reliability, effectiveness, and survivability of their ballistic missile force.”

Saturday’s missile launch, for instance, was quickly concluded to be a failure. But South Korean defense experts did not agree with this conclusion, Sputnik reported. Instead, officials claimed the so-called failed test was a designed to “develop a nuclear weapon different from existing ones.” 

America’s Defense Intelligence Agency estimated that North Korea’s stockpile of nukes amounted to one or two before the turn of the millennium, but nuclear physicist David Albright estimates that figure to be around 30 today, with the potential of reaching 60 nuclear weapons by the end of the decade. 

“The last several years have witnessed a dramatic and overt buildup in North Korea’s nuclear capabilities,” Albright said in a recent briefing. He relied on “fissile material estimates” to reach his conclusion. 

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