Seoul, Mar 26 (EFE).- North Korea tested a “newly developed new-type tactical guided projectile” based on an existing design and improved to carry a 2.5-ton warhead, state media reported Friday.
The two short-range missiles launched into the sea on Thursday from its eastern coast traveled about 600 kilometers, KCNA news agency reported, conflicting with the 420-450 km estimated by Seoul and Japan on Thursday.
The weapons test, which prompted Seoul, Tokyo and Washington to condemn the move, did not include the presence of leader Kim Jong-un but it did include that of Marshal Ri Pyong-chol, one of the five members of North Korea’s presidium. Ri is one of the key figures in the advancement of the missile program under the leadership of Kim.
The Academy of National Defense Science said that “the reliability of the improved version of solid fuel engine was confirmed through several engine ground jet tests and their test-firing processes, and that the irregular orbit features of low-altitude gliding leap type flight mode already applied to other guided projectile were also re-confirmed,” KCNA reported.
This description, plus the fact that KCNA said the weapon system uses “the core technology of tactical guided projectile that was already developed,” together with photos published leads experts to believe that the new weapon could be a modification of a short range ballistic missile designated as KN-23 by foreign intelligence.
Resembling the Russian Iskander, Pyongyang first tested KN-23 in May 2019, with Ri fundamental to its development. The KN-23 has a sophisticated guidance system that allows it to trace trajectories that are not completely parabolic or ballistic, which makes it difficult to intercept and a serious threat to nearby countries such as South Korea and Japan.
The fact that its payload has been increased to 2.5 tons is likely in response, according to experts, to South Korea’s development of its Hyunmoo IV short-range ballistic missile, tested in 2020 and capable of carrying 2 tons, which it announced in August as “the largest payload in the world.”
Thursday’s launch was the second North Korean missile test in less than a week and comes at a time marked by a review of Washington’s new strategy to deal with Pyongyang, which has required a return to the denuclearization dialog without preconditions.
On Thursday, US President Joe Biden raised Washington’s tone against the regime, warning that “there will be responses if they choose to escalate.” EFE