Two countries that have been wargamed by the military for years, North Korea and Iran, are edging closer to becoming a war rather than a game. Coincidentally, these two countries are linked together through common nuclear ambitions, military technology and cooperation with each other against a common enemy- the west, and particularly the United States.
A recent editorial in the July 28 issue of The Wall Street Journal highlighted a vote by the House of Representatives where they passed a sanctions bill on Iran, 419-3. The bill imposed sanctions on Iran’s ballistic missile program. That bill was passed last Wednesday. On Thursday, Iran launched a large missile test capable of sending a 550 pound satellite into orbit. One little know fact about Obama and Kerry’s 2015 Iran Nuclear Deal is that Iran’s ballistic missile program was not in the agreement.
On the other side of the planet, North Korea on Friday test launched its second intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), the Hwasong-14. This missile reached an altitude of 2,300 miles, the highest yet, and landed 200 miles off the coast of Japan. It also successfully passed the atmospheric re-entry test which is necessary for the warhead to successfully engage after undergoing the atmospheric pressures during re-entry. At a reduced trajectory, it is assessed that this missile could cruise over 6,000 miles reaching into the United States as far as Chicago. Also, this was the second successful test of an ICBM, and when North Korea has two consecutive successful tests they put the weapon system into production.
The advances in ballistic missile technology that we see in North Korea are also seen in Iran. It is no secret that there has been a long standing technology partnership between the two countries. North Korea has the technology and accelerated weapons development program that has been helped along for years by China and Russia. North Korea needs cash, and Iran has cash thanks to the billions of dollars from frozen assets that were released to Iran during negotiations and after the signing of the 2015 Iran Nuclear Deal. The similarities between weapon systems in both countries are notable and extend beyond missile systems. Iran’s Ghadir-class submarine and North Korea’s Yono-class miniature submarine possess the same characteristics.
An article by Samuel Ramaninin in a May, 2017 edition of The Diplomat states: “While media coverage on Iran-North Korea military cooperation has focused principally on technician exchanges between the two countries and nuclear cooperation, ballistic missile development has been the most consistent area of Tehran-Pyongyang technological cooperation since the Iran nuclear deal was signed in 2015. This collaboration explains the striking similarities between Iranian EMAD and North Korean Rodong missiles.” The Iranian EMAD and the North Korean Rodong are both medium range ballistic missiles (MRBM) which are forerunners to the recently tested Hwasong-14 ICBM. The article also quotes former UN Ambassador, John Bolton who States: “If North Korea gets nuclear missiles, Iran could have that capability the next day because of Tehran’s long-standing defense contracts with the DPRK and Pyongyang’s desperate need for hard currency.”
While the United States and the west have sanctioned and conducted diplomacy against both Iran and North Korea for years in the hopes of curbing their nuclear ambitions, one thing remains clear- sanctions and diplomacy do not work against these rouge nations. Both countries are creeping towards a military solution as the only solution to resolving an issue that should have been dealt with over multiple administrations.