Battle of the maps: North Korea's actual missile capability vs. North Korea's threatened missile capability

Today, North Korea unveiled its "U.S. mainland strike plan" in a map showing Hawaii, Washington, D.C., Austin, Texas and Los Angeles, California as primary targets. The map appeared in a photograph of an "emergency meeting" between Kim Jong Un and his top military advisors, and was broadcast by the country's propaganda arm KCNA.

It's a little difficult to make out because the lines of the continental United States are so light, but the above image shows lines pointing directly to the mainland targets of Los Angeles and Austin (Kim is clearly upset he never got to host a SXSW interactive panel on the future of Logitech hardware.) This expanded image below shows the area of the map more clearly (NK News has a smart overlay here).

Almost as soon as this latest threat surfaced, weapons experts laughed it out of the room given its ambitious assessment of North Korea's weapons capability. "How clumsy of #NKorea to accidentally display their US Mainland Striking Plan -- with ICBMs that don't exist," tweeted Mark Fitzpatrick, director of the nonproliferation and disarmament program for the International Institute for Strategic Studies. "If North Korea tried very hard and got lucky, they might be able to develop and ICBM version of the Unha-2 in five  years," he later told FP in an e-mail exchange. Speaking to the country's missile range specifically, IHS Jane's Defense Weekly editor James Hardy wrote that "there is little to no chance that it could successfully land a missile on Guam, Hawaii or anywhere else outside the Korean Peninsula that U.S. forces may be stationed."

Obviously, it's possible that U.S. intelligence and independent analyses underestimate North Korea's capabilities, a concept fleshed out by our own Kevin Baron this week. But for comparison purposes, here's the extent of North Korea's missile range according to Western experts.

First, this map data is from the Federation of American Scientists and the Center for Nonproliferation Studies. As you can see, North Korea's operational missile capacity, in green, can't even make it to India. 

On the more charitable end, the Council on Foreign Relations estimates that the Taepodong-2 rocket could make it to Alaska, but no further.

Bottom line? SXSW appears to be safe ... for now.  


Venezuelan TV spot shows Chávez meeting Che and Simón Bolívar in heaven

When Peter Wilson wrote in Foreign Policy that Hugo Chávez is still casting a shadow over Venezuela's upcoming presidential election, he wasn't kidding. Annointed successor Nicolás Maduro has already suggested that the deceased comandante persuaded Jesus Christ to tap a South American pope, and that the country's Election Day in April will be the "Sunday of a resurrection."

Now the state-run television network ViVe is running an animated spot showing a downtrodden Chávez walking through a Venezuelan savanna in his trademark Venezuelan-flag sweatsuit, and then breaking into a smile when he spots a phalanx of fellow revolutionaries and Latin American icons who influenced his Bolivarian Revolution. Here's the commercial, which is entitled, "Goodbye Forever Commander":

The group includes Cuban Revolution leader Che Guevara, Latin American liberator Simón Bolívar, Argentine first lady Eva Perón, Chilean President Salvador Allende, Nicaraguan revolutionary Augusto César Sandino, and indigenous Venezuelan chief Guaicaipuro, according to Venezuela's Agencia Venezolana de Noticias. But the most high-profile role goes to someone less famous: Chávez's grandmother Rosa Inés, who beckons the Venezuelan leader closer. According to the news agency, she helped inspire Chávez's "humanitarian values."

h/t: Miami Herald