In the last few years, South Korea has gone back and forth over whether to describe the North as “the main enemy.” At one level, the words are immaterial; it’s painfully obvious whose army is lined up on the other side of the DMZ. (Hint: not Burkina Faso’s.) But at another level, calling the DPRK the enemy actually might serve as a helpful clarification for decision-makers in Seoul.
All of this is by way of drawing attention to a small discrepancy in recent media reports about the Hyunmu-3C ground-launched cruise missile, described by anonymous ROK defense officials as having a range of 1,500 km. The Chosun Ilbo calls it the successor to cruise missiles of 500 km and 1,000 km range, and explains,
The Hyunmu-3C brings North Korean nuclear and other major facilities like Scud and Rodong missile bases in South Pyongan, Kangwon, and South Hamgyong Provinces within range of the South Korean Army.
There’s just one small problem. There’s no place in North Korea more than 500 km from the DMZ. And there are no two points on the Korean peninsula more than 1,000 km apart. What a 1,500-km weapon brings into range is, mainly, downtown Tokyo.
What such a weapon costs to develop, test, manufacture, deploy, and maintain, I don’t know, but it’s probably insufficient to purchase a sense of equality with Korea’s former colonial master. Maybe some plutonium would do the trick?
Then again, perhaps the underlying sentiment is not about mere equality. As the Chosun declares,
Only six other countries — the U.S., the U.K., France, Russia, China and Israel — have cruise missiles with a range of more than 500 km, and only three — the U.S., Russia and Israel — have missiles with a range of 1,500 km or more.
It’s hard to say whether these two lists are accurate, but accuracy isn’t the point. The point is which country doesn’t appear on either list.
I’d love to hear that the description of the weapon’s range is in error, but suspect that it’s not.
An aside: this is not the first time we’ve heard of the Hyunmu-3 or Hyunmoo-III family of cruise missiles, earlier called Chonryong. Either word translates to, “There’s no word for this in Japanese.” Or not yet.