Pyongyang announces it tested new solid-fuel ICBM

(Update 1: Adds analysis, minor edits, changes lede)

Seoul, Apr 14 (EFE).- North Korea revealed Friday that the projectile that it fired the previous day is a new type of solid fuel intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), a weapon that can theoretically strike the United States and is much more efficient and difficult to spot compared to those Pyongyang has used in the past.

On Thursday, the South Korean military reported that it detected the launch of a medium- or long-range ballistic missile from the vicinity of Pyongyang and that the projectile traveled about 1,000 kilometers before falling into the Sea of Japan.

The new missile, called Hwasong-18, does not require the lengthy pre-launch propellant loading process necessary for liquid fuel projectiles and which exposes them for longer to a possible preemptive attack by the enemy.

Storage, deployment and operation are easier and more effective with the Hwasong-18 compared to the ICBMs that Pyongyang has been unveiling since 2017 (Hwasong-14, 15 and 17) and with which it could theoretically already reach the entire US territory and the almost the whole planet, with the exception of South America.

Thursday’s test launch was attended by leader Kim Jong-un – who said the weapon would “radically promote the effectiveness of its nuclear counterattack posture” – and his daughter, his wife, his sister, members of the Presidium of the sole party’s Central Committee and some of the main figures from the national weapons program, according to the state news agency KCNA on Friday.

“The aim of the test-fire was to confirm the performance of the high-thrust solid-fuel engines for multi-stage missiles and the reliability of the stage-jettisoning technology and various functional control systems and to estimate the military feasibility of the new strategic weapon system,” KCNA added.

At the time of Thursday’s launch, Japanese authorities activated public alerts in view of the possibility that the missile could potentially be aimed at the northern island of Hokkaido, as their radars indicated before the missile disappeared from the screens.

This would be explained by the fact that “the test fire was conducted in the way of applying the standard trajectory flying mode to its first stage and the vertical mode to the second and third stages,” according to KCNA, something that it said was done “in consideration of the security of the neighboring countries.”

This launch configuration confirmed the “technological features of all the components of the weapon system by restricting the maximum speed of the missile through delayed stage separation and motor reactivation.”

It is striking that North Korea has developed and tested a solid fuel ICBM less than six years after testing its first equivalent liquid fuel missile, a time that outstrips those of Asian giants China (19 years) and India (13 years).

Developing a solid fuel ICBM was one of the objectives set out in the five-year arms modernization plan approved by the regime in January 2021.

Without the halfway point of that five-year period yet having been completed, of the dozen new systems to be developed proposed in that plan, five, including the Hwasong-18, have already been tested while one of them – the nuclear-capable tactical missiles – is already operational.

This latest launch joins other weapons tests – including that of a new underwater nuclear torpedo – carried out by Pyongyang in response to the large-scale spring maneuvers in Seoul and Washington, in which Japan has also participated occasionally.

Tension on the Korean Peninsula is at its highest since 2022 in which the regime, which has rejected offers to resume dialogue, carried out a record number of missile launches to replicate allied military exercises and the deployment of US strategic assets in the region. EFE


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