Seoul, Oct 9 (efe-epa).- Military intelligence in Seoul and Washington will be vigilant Saturday of the military parade North Korea holds in Pyongyang for the 75th anniversary of its only party, where it will likely display the latest advances of its missile program.
The regime resumed weapons testing in 2019 after the failure of the Hanoi summit it held with the United States on nuclear disarmament, although it limited itself to firing only short-range missiles with the apparent intention of testing the patience of Washington.
Unted States President Donald Trump played them down, arguing these tests did not violate the self-imposed moratorium by North Korea, which since 2017 has not tested medium and long-range missiles or nuclear weapons to keep the rapprochement with the US alive.
However, leader Kim Jong-un hardened the tone in his New Year’s message, vowing that his country would soon deploy a “new strategic weapon,” suggesting that the regime is preparing a new intercontinental-range projectile.
Shortly after, the COVID-19 pandemic occurred, choking the economy of the country and since January, North Korea has only conducted four series of tests – compared to 13 in 2019 – with low-range projectiles.
That is why Saturday’s event seems like the only great showcase this year for the regime to parade a series of assets that send an unmistakable signal about its plan to continue developing weapons of mass destruction if Washington does not choose to negotiate a peace process.
Among the weapons that Pyongyang could unveil, the aforementioned “new strategic weapon” mentioned by Kim stands out, which would become a new intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) with better capabilities than the Hwasong-15. This is the highest-range projectile tested to date by the country with potential capacity to reach the US.
A new ICBM will very likely be seen Saturday, starting with the two tests that Pyongyang carried out in December with a new liquid fuel engine at the base of Sohae (northwest of the country), where they were also tested in their day the Hwasong-15 engines.
There are also more recent factors, such as that published a few days ago by South Korean newspaper Chosun, which, citing an anonymous source from the military intelligence in Seoul, said the satellites have captured the development of a new missile “larger than the Hwason-15.”
To this we must add that Ri Pyong-chol, one of the main figures in the arms program, was appointed this week Marshal, the highest rank of the North Korean ground forces, only behind the symbolic positions held by members of the Kim dynasty.
On the other hand, some experts believe Pyongyang could choose to parade only the containers (and not the missiles themselves), as it did in previous parades with projectiles that were still under development.
Another item that analysts will be watching closely will be the mobile erector shuttles (TEL) that the North Korean military displays during the event.
It is known that North Korea managed to seize six Chinese-made TELs originally modified to transport logs in 2012 and that the regime later altered them so that they could transport, prepare and fire missiles such as the Hwasong-15.
It remains to be seen whether Pyongyang will show the same TELs with new modifications (the satellite images mentioned by Chosun point to that possibility) or if they could be vehicles that North Korea would have managed to manufacture itself, something that would be another dangerous arms advance.
The third weapons asset that North Korea could display for the first time is the Pukguksong-3, a new submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM). Pyongyang tested this projectile in October last year, although it did so from a floating platform. and not from a submersible.
In any case, Pyongyang has long been devoted to the development of this weapon and a new submarine (the so-called Sinpo-C). It has the objective of one day becoming the sixth country in the world with operational capacity to fire ballistic missiles from submarines to hit any point on the planet. EFE-EPA