It was the missile shot heard ’round the world: North Korea’s latest ICBM was test-fired last week and, according to CNN, flew higher and farther than any of the Kim regime’s past weapons.
“The Hwasong-15 weaponry system, capable of carrying super-heavy nuclear warhead and striking the whole mainland of the U.S., has greater advantages in its tactical and technological specifications and technical characteristics than Hwasong-14 whose test-fire was conducted in July last,” a statement from the state-run Korea Central News Agency read.
“This is the most powerful ICBM, which means that the DPRK has attained its goal of completing the rocket weaponry system development set by it,” the release said, using the initials for the North’s formal name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. “The successful launch of Hwasong-15 is a great event that proved that no force on the earth can block our dynamic advance toward the final victory of socialism.”
Unfortunately, there is one force that could block the dynamic advance toward the final victory of socialism that the Hwasong-15 allegedly represents: namely, the crew of Cathay Pacific Flight 893.
According to an internal company message from the crew of Flight 893, which was flying in the vicinity of the Nov. 29 missile test, the pilots saw the North Korean missile break up as it re-entered the Earth’s atmosphere, essentially rendering the test a failure.
According to the Morning Post, the crew of the San Francisco-bound flight witnessed the disintegration of the missile upon re-entry at approximately 2:18 a.m. Hong Kong Time.
“Be advised, we witnessed the DPRK missile blow up and fall apart near our current location,” the message read. “We advised ATC (air traffic control) and ops (operations) normal. Just letting you know’. Looking at the actual plots, CX096 (a Cathay Pacific Cargo flight) might have been the closest, at a few hundred miles laterally.”
An airline spokeswoman said the flight was over Japan when the Hwasong-15 was launched.
“Though the flight was far from the event location, the crew advised Japan (air traffic control) according to procedure,” she said.
While North Korea has made major strides in the range of its ballistic missiles over the past few years, experts have long suspected that the Kim regime still has a ways to go in two areas: guidance systems and heat shielding to allow the missiles to survive re-entering the Earth’s atmosphere.
On the latter front, CIA reports had seemed to indicate that while the shielding wasn’t perfect, the North Koreans are getting close enough to pose a legitimate threat.
That may indeed still be the case. However, as the disastrous results of the Hwasong-15 launch proves, they’re not quite there yet.
In the KCNA’s news announcing the “successful” ICBM launch, the state news agency said that “(t)his great victory will shine long in the history of our Party and country and further propel the all-out general offensive for implementing the decision set forth at the Seventh Congress of the Workers’ Party of Korea.”
It may have shone, all right. However, my guess was that was mostly just from the disintegration upon re-entry.