Where can North Korea’s missiles reach?

Posted noviembre 5, 2017 9:48 pm by


October 24, 2017 01:10:44

An illustration shows the Earth, with a missile launch in front of it.

How far can North Korea’s missiles reach?

North Korea has threatened Australia with “disaster” for aligning itself with the US against the country’s reclusive regime.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop insists we are “not a primary target”, but it is clear the US is not the only country imperilled by the increasingly aggressive hermit kingdom, which has made significant leaps in its missile capabilities.

Just how much of the world is at potential risk?

North Korea has a large arsenal of reliable short-range ballistic missiles.

Under current leader Kim Jong-un’s reign, North Korea has tested these short-range missiles 50 times. Only one of these tests has failed under the current leader, signalling their operational readiness.

The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, better known as North Korea.

The missile in this category with the longest range is the ER Scud. It can hit targets up to 1,000 kilometres away.

That puts all of South Korea within range, as well as Osaka, Japan’s second-largest city.

Seoul and Osaka are within range of the regime’s SRBMs.

Of particular threat to South Korea are missiles known as the Scud-C MaRV and Scud-B MaRV.

These missiles are equipped with a manoeuvrable final stage. This could allow them to evade the Terminal High Altitude Area Defence system, which the US has stationed on South Korean soil.

The US has installed the Terminal High Altitude Area Defence system in South Korea to intercept missiles, but North Korea’s Scud-B and C MaRV’s could potentially outsmart it.

The maximum range of North Korea’s medium-range ballistic missiles is about 2,000 kilometres.

These are also reliably tested — only two of nine tests have failed under Kim Jong-un.

All of Japan is well within range of North Korea’s MRBMs.

This puts the rest of Japan within range, including the world’s largest metropolis, Tokyo.

The regime’s medium-range ballistic missiles could hit Tokyo, the world’s largest metropolis.

North Korea is also developing the capability to launch missiles from a submarine — but the technology is generally regarded as being some way off being deployed.

Only three of six tests have succeeded under Kim Jong-un.

North Korea has tested the ability to launch ballistic missiles from a submarine at Sinpo shipyard.

Currently, the submarine-launched missiles have an estimated range of 1,200 kilometres.

The Sinpo submarine is estimated to be able to operate up to 2,800 kilometres from its base, so the threat remains localised in the Pacific.

But disturbingly, submarine-based launches are much harder to anticipate than a land-based launch.

North Korea’s intermediate-range ballistic missiles have a maximum range of 4,500 kilometres.

The range of North Korea’s intermediate-range ballistic missiles.

This puts the US military bases on the island of Guam firmly into range, as well as much of South-East Asia.

Guam is well within range of North Korea’s IRBMs.

The reliability of these missiles is less certain, with only three tests successful out of 14 conducted under Kim Jong-un.

However, six tests of an intermediate-range missile that only appeared this year, the Hwasong-12, are a cause for concern.

The first three of these tests were all failures but at least two of the most recent three were successful.

The range of North Korea’s intermediate-range ballistic missiles.

Two of the Hwasong-12 tests flew over Japan (approximate landing locations shown), and some experts believe its most recent successful test on September 15 could signal this missile’s operational readiness.

The approximate landing locations of the 5th and 6th tests of the Hwasong-12 show that North Korea’s missiles could easily reach Guam.

North Korea has also conducted two successful tests of an intercontinental ballistic missile, the Hwasong-14, this year.

North Korea’s first ICBM test gave the missile a range of 8,500km, which puts most of Australia in range.

After the first test, experts estimated its range to be about 8,500 kilometres, which would put the US state of Alaska into range.

The regime’s first ICBM test gave the missile a range of 8,500km, far enough to hit Alaska.

It would also put many parts of Australia into range.

North Korea’s first ICBM test gave the missile a range of 8,500km, which puts both Brisbane and Perth well within range.

However, the most recent test gave the missile an even higher estimated range of 10,000 kilometres.

North Korea’s second test of its ICBM, the Hwasong-14, gave it a range of over 10,000km, putting all of Australia into range.

With this range, all of Australia would be in striking distance.

Australia is in range of North Korea’s Hwasong-14 ICBM.

It could hit Los Angeles…

The regime’s ICBMs could hit Los Angeles.

Most of Europe…

Most of Europe is within range of the regime’s ICBMs.

And even New Zealand.

The regime could reach Auckland with its ICBMs.

As the crow flies, New York and Washington appear to be out of range.

Washington and New York sit outside the nominal range of North Korea’s ICBMs.

But experts have noted that the rotation of the earth increases the range of missiles fired in an easterly direction.

Missiles fired in an easterly direction can travel further, so the regime could hit New York and Washington with its ICBMs.

It’s currently unclear if North Korea has built a re-entry vehicle that won’t burn up in the atmosphere. However, this is old technology and if the regime has not already mastered it, experts say it is not far off.

There is also some contention over whether North Korea has miniaturised a nuclear weapon so it can attach it to these longer-range missiles.

The regime claims it has already mastered this technology; experts say if North Korea doesn’t already have the capability, it’s a year or less away.

Finally, North Korea also has an array of space launch vehicles, which it has used to put satellites into orbit.

North Korea’s second test of its ICBM, the Hwasong-14, gave it a range of over 10,000km, putting all of Australia into range.

Some estimates put their reach at 15,000 kilometres in a three-stage configuration.

Under this scenario, the only continent that would be largely safe would be South America.

North Korea’s space launch vehicles have a theoretical range of 15,000km. Only a few South American countries would be safe under this scenario, but experts doubt the missiles could carry a nuclear payload this far.

But these missiles have only been tested with relatively light satellites, so it’s unlikely they would reach this far with the heavy payload of a warhead.

Furthermore, these missiles take days to set up for launch, which gives enemies time to prepare and possibly disrupt them, so they are highly unlikely to be used as offensive missiles.

So where do you go if you want to be as far as possible from the potential wrath of the hermit kingdom?

The farthest land point from North Korea appears to be the town of Mar del Plata in Argentina.

The farthest land point in the world from North Korea is the town of Mar del Plata in Argentina.

But before you start learning Spanish, remember that most of the regime’s long-range missile capability remains largely untested.

Whilst all this is pretty terrifying, it pays to remember that at this point, North Korea’s longer-range missiles are largely untested.

On the other hand, the north has an estimated arsenal of several hundred SRBMs and MRBMs, and if attacked, this is likely where their fire would be directed.

The regime’s short and medium-range missiles are reliably tested and fully operational, which is dangerous for its immediate neighbours.

This is perilous for the immediate region, as it’s likely the nuclear warheads that the regime currently has can already be attached to their short and medium-range missiles.

North Korea’s current nuclear arsenal could be attached to its short and medium-range missiles.

North Korea is also believed to have biological and chemical weapons arsenals that it could attach to these weapons.

So even if sanctions drive the regime back to the negotiating table and halt the testing of new missiles and nuclear weapons, North Korea’s neighbours will still be well within their sights.

The regime could also potentially attach chemical or biological weapons to its arsenal.

And with big players like the US and China jostling to protect their interests in the region, any attack will have wider implications for the whole world.

With so many competing interests in the region, the Korean peninsula is a tinder box, waiting to be ignited.

Escape from North Korea: A long and dangerous journey

An illustration shows silhouetted figures walking along a mountain path under the night sky.

Silhouetted figures walk along a mountain path under the night sky. (ABC News: Lucy Fahey)

Follow a teenage North Korean defector on her long, dangerous journey to a new life.

Did you find this story surprising, insightful or useful?

Sign up to hear about interactives, visualisations and good reads from the ABC News Digital Storytelling team. (No more than one email a week, we promise.)



  • Reporter: Matt Martino
  • Designer: Ben Spraggon
  • Developer: Josh Byrd
  • Editor: Matt Liddy





First posted

October 16, 2017 06:23:34