North Korean missile launch causes international concern

Additional sanctions and possible military responses are on the table

(CNN) – The United States is closely watching the situation on the Korean peninsula.

Concerns are growing that North Korea is getting closer to being able to launch a long-range missile to the mainland U.S. with a nuclear warhead.

It took nine-minutes and 46-seconds to get into orbit. On the way up, it dropped debris in four locations in the seas off the Korean peninsula and Japan.

But now, the military and political fallout is resonating around the world from North Korea’s rocket-launch. U.S. and South Korean forces are on high alert.

U.S. officials telling CNN additional sanctions and possible military responses are on the table.

And they will begin talking to the South Koreans about setting up so-called ‘Thaad’ defense batteries, capable of shooting down high-altitude missiles.

Coming on the heels of what North Korea claimed was a hydrogen-bomb test, the threat level from Kim Jong Un’s regime has rarely been higher.

Gordon Chang, author of ‘Nuclear Showdown’ said, “This shows that North Korea has mastered a very complex technology, which are 3-stage launchers. So at this point I think North Korea has made a qualitative leap, and soon they’re going to make a quantitative leap – because they can actually start to put these things in production.”

The North Koreans are crowing over the launch, with a celebratory display of fireworks.  The regime’s popular news anchor says this was a gift from their top scientists to “the great comrade” Kim Jong Un. And she vows, there will be more satellite launches.

Experts say Kim’s doing this to extort economic concessions from the U.S., South Korea and China. But he’s also got to show strength inside his regime, ahead of a massive gathering of top officials this spring.

Former CIA Analyst Bruce Klingner said, “In the run-up to the May Workers Party Congress, he wants to demonstrate success, so that he goes into that party congress with a great deal of leverage.”

Analysts say Kim’s also in a tense position with his top generals, after he tried to take power away from them.

Chang said, “He’s had to execute some senior generals; and I think that essentially there is friction that remains between the Kim inner circle, and the generals and the admirals. Therefore he’s got to give the military what it wants, which is a stronger nuclear deterrent, as well as long-range ballistic missiles.”

A high-stakes standoff that’s got military units jittery on both sides of the DMZ.

The South Korean military fired warning shots after a North Korean patrol boat crossed their maritime border.

One analyst says with the tensions so high, we can expect more cross-border skirmishes.

Copyright 2016 CNN

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