The United States took another step forward in missile defense last week, successfully intercepting a mock warhead in a controlled missile defense test this weekend.

The Guardian reports:

The U.S. military fired an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM)-type weapon from the Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands. It then fired a missile to intercept it from Vandenberg air force base in California.

The Missile Defense Agency said it was the first live-fire test against a simulated ICBM for the ground-based midcourse defense (GMD) and hailed it as an “incredible accomplishment.”

“This system is vitally important to the defense of our homeland, and this test demonstrates that we have a capable, credible deterrent against a very real threat,” Vice-Admiral Jim Syring, director of the agency, said in a statement.

That’s a good sign for national security, but can it stop the kind of missiles North Korea would launch at the U.S.?  Here are the sub-based and intercontinental missiles the DPRK have, and how they stack up against U.S. counter-measures.

Currently, North Korea has only one missile capable of reaching the United States.

The Taepodong-2 can exit and re-enter the Earth’s atmosphere, and has a range that places it within striking distance of Alaska and possibly the northeastern United States.

However, the Taepodong-2 was developed for the DPRK’s space program and is designed to be used to launch satellites.

It lacks the technology allowing it to be used to strike targets on Earth.  So far.

North Korea is attempting to develop intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of reaching the United States.

While tests to this point have all failed and the regime has no such capability, the development of solid-fuel rockets has greatly accelerated the pace by which they can reach such technology.

The largest threat posed by North Korea isn’t the development of intercontinental missiles launched from their soil, but mid-range missiles launched from submarines.

They can already launch missiles from submarines.

The only part missing from the threat equation is an improvement to their submarine technology.

North Korea’s current sub fleet is ridiculously outdated.

The regime relies on 1950s and 1960s-era diesel submarines handed down to them by now-failed Soviet states, as well as indigenously-built submarines that still rely on diesel engines.

The development of a submarine capable of approaching the United States is a top objective of the DPRK.

To that point, the regime’s new Sinpo-class submarine, while still diesel-powered and retaining the same operating range as the older Sang-O class, does mean they can engineer and build new technologies.

The United States’ rapidly improving missile defense systems are a welcome counter to North Korea’s relentless drive to build intercontinental missiles, and nuclear warheads capable of being delivered by them.

But missiles launched halfway around the world from a fixed point are only part of the threat.

Any missile defense system deployed by the U.S. should also account for North Korea’s plans for a submarine-based, stealthier strike force.