North Korea: What we know about the 'massive' new missile on parade
North Korea has unveiled a new ballistic missile, the "colossal" size of which surprised even seasoned analysts in the country's arsenal. Defense expert Melissa Hanham explains what the missile is and why it poses a threat to the US and the world.
To mark the 75th anniversary of North Korea's ruling Labor Party, the country held an unprecedented military parade at midnight.
The heavily choreographed event showed off all of the pomp and circumstance that the world expects from North Korea's human mass performances. It also included a surprisingly emotional speech by Chairman Kim Jong-un, who sometimes cried as he talked about the country's struggles.
Last, but not least, it revealed North Korea's largest ICBM to date.
Here are three things we know about the rocket.
The parade was held to mark the 75th anniversary of the ruling Labor Party
Kim's promised "strategic weapon"
On January 1, 2020, Mr. Kim delivered his annual New Year's Address announcing that North Korea is "developing the state-of-the-art weapons system that only advanced countries have."
He explicitly referred to a "strategic" - ie nuclear weapons system in development.
Mr. Kim tied the weapon purposefully to the United States, stating, "The longer the United States stands still in time and hesitates to settle the relationship between the Democratic People's Republic of Korea and the United States, the more helpless it becomes before the power of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. that will become unpredictably stronger and will get deeper into a dead end ".
North Korea crisis in 300 words
What does North Korea want?
What we know about North Korea's missile program
This new ICBM is Mr. Kim's promised strategic weapon. It is totally aimed at the US and is delivered as a fait accompli in the face of failed negotiations with the Trump administration.
A new threat to US missile defense systems
North Korea already has two ICBMs tested. The Hwasong-14 was tested twice in 2017 and can reach almost all of Western Europe and about half of the US mainland with a single nuclear warhead with a range of 10,000 km.
The Hwasong-15, also tested in 2017, has a range of 13,000 km, which means that it can deliver a single nuclear warhead anywhere on the US mainland.
The new ICBM, which has yet to be tested, is also a two-stage liquid fuel missile, but with a greater length and diameter than the Hwasong-15.
During the parade, some heavy rockets were displayed on heavy trucks
Until the engines are revealed or a test is conducted, we are unlikely to know the exact range.
However, the design makes North Korea's intentions very clear: they no longer need to increase the range of their missiles.
Instead, they focus on firing multiple nuclear warheads with a single missile. This would be another blow to the US anti-missile defense systems already in action, as multiple interceptors would have to be fired for each incoming warhead.
States with advanced nuclear weapons have multiple independent re-entry vehicles - or MIRVs - and now North Korea is trying to do the same.
An urgent cause for concern
There are still some design issues surrounding the ICBM itself, making it unsure when to test or deploy it. However, the truck under the missile is of immediate concern.
One of the main constraints on North Korea's ability to engage in nuclear war is the number of launch vehicles they have. After all, you can only shoot down as many missiles as you have launchers.
Large-scale military parades are often held in North Korea on the occasion of the national holidays
The US estimates that North Korea can launch a maximum of 12 ICBMs. This calculation is based on the hypothesis that each of the six known launch vehicles will fire an ICBM and will endeavor to quickly fire a second missile before the US reciprocates.
In 2010, North Korea illegally imported six WS51200 heavy trucks from China and modified them with hydraulics to make them into Transporter Erector Launchers (TELs). With these TELs, North Korea demonstrated, transported and installed its ICBMs.
The trucks are so valuable that they are driven away from the missile before launch because they would be so difficult to replace in the event of a missile failure.
This parade is the first time we've seen more than six trucks in action. These new trucks have been heavily modified.
North Korea uses large trucks, like the one shown here, to transport ICBMs
It is therefore clear that North Korea can continue to receive components for high-performance launchers despite sanctions and export controls. It's also clear that they built their manufacturing sector to modify - and are now potentially producing - their own rocket launchers.
North Korea's new ICBM, produced in a year of great struggle, is a message to the world not to underestimate the state, its leader or the technological capabilities of its people.
Melissa Hanham, an expert on weapons of mass destruction and open source data, is the associate director of Open Nuclear Network (ONN), a program of the One Earth Future Foundation
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