In North Korea's Latest Test, a Possibly 'Ominous' Clue
38 North analysis: Distance suggests test of a potent missile booster
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 30, 2017 11:40 AM CDT
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People fill the square of the main railway station to watch a news broadcast of the test-fire of an intercontinental ballistic rocket in Pyongyang, North Korea.   (AP Photo/Kim Kwang Hyon)

(Newser) – President Trump on Wednesday followed up on his "all options are on the table" warning to North Korea by suggesting that negotiations are not one of those options. "The U.S. has been talking to North Korea, and paying them extortion money, for 25 years," he tweeted. "Talking is not the answer!" It's not clear what Trump means by "extortion money," notes the New York Times. The new warning follows the North's decision to fire a ballistic missile over Japan for the first time, and an analysis at 38 North sees a potentially "ominous" clue in the test results: The missile flew a relatively short distance of about 1,700 miles. It's possible engineers deliberately shut down the engine early, but the distance (and reports of the missile breaking into three pieces) suggests a more troubling possibility: Pyongyang is testing something called a "post-boost vehicle" on the missile.

PBVs are standard on US and Russian ICBMs, explains Michael Elleman, because they not only provide an added boost for the payload (some kind of warhead), they also provide for more accuracy. If the North had tested the missile with a PBV, and the test failed, the distance traveled would make sense. If that's the case, "it is another sign that Pyongyang is deadly serious about developing and fielding nuclear-tipped missiles capable of striking the US mainland, and critical US military bases in the Pacific Ocean," writes Elleman, who thinks North Korea is a year or two away from posing a credible threat to the US. Meanwhile, the Navy shot down a medium-range ballistic missile during a test off Hawaii, reports NBC News. "We will continue developing ballistic missile defense technologies to stay ahead of the threat as it evolves," says a Pentagon official.

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