North Korea launched on July 2 at least three short-range anti-ship missiles into waters along its east coast. Pyongyang’s provocative act will further heighten tensions on the Korean Peninsula and may be a precursor to additional missile activity in coming days. Pyongyang’s increased anti-ship missile and coastal artillery training since the beginning of the year may be a show of tactical military prowess to back up escalating threats of renewed naval confrontation with South Korea over a disputed maritime border on the west coast.

The launch of the anti-ship missiles, with a range of less than 100 miles, may not actually be a violation of UN resolutions which preclude “ballistic missile activity.” It is certainly no direct threat to the United States. But it is a pointed reminder – as it is not doubt intended – of the looming North Korean long range ballistic missile threat.

Pyongyang’s continued development of nuclear weapons and ICBM delivery capability, in defiance of UN resolutions and international diplomatic pressure, demonstrates the need for the US and its allies to continue to develop and deploy missile defense systems, even as we do all we can both multilaterally and unilaterally to squeeze the regime into abandoning its programs.
UN Resolution 1874 “demands that [North Korea] not conduct any further nuclear test or any launch using ballistic missile technology [and] decides that the DPRK shall suspend all activities related to its ballistic missile program.”

Expectations for longer-range missile activity were heightened by reports in May that a long-range missile transporter was observed at two North Korean launch facilities, similar to observed preparations prior to Pyongyang’s April 5th launch of a Taepo Dong-2 missile which flew 2500 miles. It was conjectured that Pyongyang might choose to launch missiles either on the July 4th anniversary of the 2006 launch of a Taepo Dong-2 missile or the July 8th anniversary of the 1994 death of leader Kim Il-sung.

However, US intelligence sources were quoted on July 1 as stating that there were no indications of an impending long-range launch. Even after a Taepo Dong missile is placed on the launch stand, it usually takes several days to fuel and prepare it. North Korea could instead choose to launch Scud short-range ballistic missiles or No Dong intermediate-range ballistic missiles with little preparation since they are mobile systems. The launch of either missile would be a clear violation of UN Resolution 1874.