In what appears to be a response to the US and South Korea’s recent provocative decision to deploy the THAAD system, North Korea fired three missiles on July 19, 2016. The three missiles launched are thought to have been two Hwasong-6 (Scud) and one Hwasong-7 (Rodong) ballistic missiles. In a report by North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), the launch was part of an exercise intended to practice striking “South Korean ports and airfields where the US empire’s nuclear war equipment would be brought in.”

In this simulation of strikes against South Korean ports and airfields, where US reinforcements are to arrive in an emergency situation, the Hwasong-6 and Hwasong-7 were reportedly able to reach altitudes of 150 km and 500-600 km in distance. The THAAD has a maximum interception altitude of 150 km. According to Yong Suk Jang of the Seoul National University’s Institute for Peace and Unification Studies (IPUS), if North Korea is able to vary the range and trajectory of its missiles, the THAAD system can be rendered ineffective. The recent practice launches under restricted conditions showed that North Korea’s Hwasong-6 and Hwasong-7 could reach well beyond the altitude range of the THAAD system’s capacity to intercept missiles.

Russia acknowledged the most recent missile launches to be a warning against the US for its military provocations, most recently manifested through the deployment of the THAAD. With its potential ability to detect and track weapons stored in the region via its surveillance radar, the THAAD deployment is being perceived as an act of provocation against China and Russia. This endorsement of North Korea’s practice missile launches by Russia, however, is unprecedented. Since supporting sanctions against North Korea for its nuclear tests, Russia has shifted its stance toward North Korea after the U.S. and South Korean decided to deploy the THAAD system in South Korea.

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