Not Now, North Korea

People watch a TV at the Seoul Railway Station showing a file image of a North Korean missile launch on March 24, 2022, in Seoul, South Korea. Photo: Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images

With Russia’s devastating invasion of Ukraine continuing to stall, the prospect of a cornered Vladimir Putin unleashing nuclear weapons on Europe and the world is growing — even if it’s still a remote possibility.

So naturally, Kim Jong-un was feeling left out in the “causing nightmares” department.

On Thursday, with NATO leaders convening in Brussels for an emergency meeting on Ukraine, the North Korean dictator launched the country’s first intercontinental ballistic-missile test since November 2017 (back then, former President Trump was routinely threatening to destroy Kim’s country, before the pair formed an unlikely friendship that produced few tangible policy results).

The missile flew for 71 minutes and 671 miles before landing in the ocean near the West Coast of Japan. And North Korea appears to have upped its game since the last provocation of this sort, per CNN:

Japan’s Vice Defense Minister Makoto Oniki told reporters Thursday the missile’s altitude would suggest it is a “new type of ICBM,” a potential sign North Korea is closer to developing weapons capable of targeting the United States.

Okay, that doesn’t sound great, and Kim’s weapons certainly pose a serious danger to neighboring countries. But if he wants to wrest western attention away from the threat posed by Russia, he’s got another thing coming. North Korea may boast impressive missile capability, but does it have nukes that can reach American shores? As The Wall Street Journal reported this month, it sounds like things are still in the planning stages on that front:

Pyongyang has yet to show it can reliably strike the U.S. with a nuclear weapon. That requires developing a warhead that can survive the enormous pressure and heat of re-entering the atmosphere. And in its tests the North has launched ICBMs at a steep angle — in part to keep them from splashing down in U.S. territorial waters — which leaves doubts about whether the technology could traverse an actual flight, with its flatter trajectory.

Until North Korea figures this out, Russia remains the more imminent and terrifying threat. Come back when you’ve figured out the “reentering the atmosphere” part of this, Kim, and maybe you’ll climb back to the top of the archvillainy rankings. (Actually, please don’t do that.)

Not Now, North Korea