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This article was first published 3 years ago  » News » Why US must worry about Kim's 'monster missile'

Why US must worry about Kim's 'monster missile'

October 13, 2020 19:55 IST
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The new missile could deliver 2,000 to 3,500 kilograms of payload to any point in the continental US, notes Rajaram Panda.

IMAGE: North Korea's 75th anniversary day military parade watched on a television set at the Seoul railway station in South Korea, October 10, 2020. Photograph: Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images

North Korea celebrated the 75th anniversary of the Workers Party of Korea by organising a massive pre-dawn (all past parades were held during daytime hours) military parade on Saturday, October 10, wherein it unveiled what appeared to be its biggest intercontinental ballistic missile along with other weapons, with Kim Jong Un promising to build up the country's 'war deterrence'.

Other weapons included a submarine-launched ballistic missile and North Korea's version of Russia's Iskander short-range ballistic missile.

It was the first military parade that North Korea has held since 2018.

Foreign diplomats in Pyongyang were barred from attending the event and were warned not to take pictures of the weapons.

Some analysts were quick to dub the missile displayed as 'monstrous.

IMAGE: A gun salute during the North Korean parade. Photograph: KCNA/Reuters

When the new ICBM becomes operational, it would be the world's largest road-mobile, liquid-fueled, missile. Though it remains to be seen if the ICBM displayed at the parade actually works.

Going by past experience when Pyongyang showcased prototypes at parades and eventually tested them, the missile displayed on Saturday will work when it became operational.

The new ICBM appears to be an advanced version of the Hwasong-15, Pyongyang's most powerful tested missile.

While the Hwasong-15 tested on November 29, 2017 has the strike range to hit the US mainland, the new ICBM seems more focused on payload.

The new missile could deliver 2,000 to 3,500 kilograms of payload to any point in the continental US, greater than the 1,000 kilogram Hwasong-15 with an estimated range of 12,874 kilometres and capable of delivering any part of the continental US, which is why Melissa Hanham, deputy director of the Vienna-based Open Nuclear Network told Nikkei Asia the ICBM as a 'monster'.

According to the 38 North, a US-based think-tank focused on North Korea, the new missile was mounted on a transporter erector launcher with 22 wheels, indicating that it is longer than the Hwasong-15, which was carried by an 18-wheel TEL.

The missile appears to be 25-26 metres long and 2.5-2.9 metres in diameter -- about 4-4.5 metrEs longer and about 5 centimetres wider in diameter than the Hwasong-15.

Besides the ICBM on display, North Korea also unveiled a new submarine-launched ballistic missile called the Pukguksong-4, which appeared to be bigger than its predecessor, the Pukguksong-3, which was test-fired in October in October 2019.

IMAGE: Kim Jong Un at the parade. Photograph: KCNA/Reuters

During his 25-minute speech, Kim vowed to strengthen the country's 'war deterrence' to 'deter, control and manage' threats from hostile forces, including their 'aggravating nuclear threat'.

Kim promised that the military deterrent would only be used in self-defence, and 'will never be abused or used as a means for pre-emptive strike'.

'Should anyone undermine our national security and mobilise military power against us, I will retaliate by using the most powerful offensive weapon at our disposal and in a pre-emptive manner.' the North Korean leader warned.

Kim was careful to not mention the US in his address.

It transpires now that even when Pyongyang was engaged in denuclearisation diplomacy with Washington in 2018-2019 and exercised some restraint by not featuring ICBMs in public, it continued to develop ICBMs and the means to deliver them.

Kim hopes to raise the stakes for future negotiations with the latest weapons.

Kim wants to convey the message to the US that he is ready either to negotiate or provoke depending on what response he gets from Washington.

By only showcasing its new military capabilities, Pyongyang did not overstep international red lines, at least for now.

IMAGE: Military vehicles during the parade. Photograph: KCNA/Reuters

Besides the 'new strategic weapons', North Korea has three types of ICBMs in its possession -- the Hwasong-13, Hwasong-14 and Hwasong-15. It sought to develop a multiple-warhead ICBM that can fly further and is harder to intercept.

That ambition seems now fulfilled.

The new strategic weapon seems to have been designed to carry multiple independent re-entry vehicles (MIRVs), allowing it to attack more targets and making interception more difficult.

North Korea often tends to mark every fifth and 10th anniversary with large-scale events such as military provocations, including missile launches and parade of troops, newly developed 'strategic weapons' and other military hardware.

IMAGE: Kim Jong Un speaks at the military parade. Photograph: KRT TV/Reuters

Though it is unclear if the missile displayed at the parade was a conceptual or engineering mock-up or a workable prototype, North Korea is not expected to test it at least once. Perhaps within a year or so.

Chinese leader Xi Jinping sent Kim a congratulatory message, assuring him that China intended to 'defend, consolidate and develop' ties with North Korea.

After Kim assumed power China had joined the US and other nations in imposing sanctions on North Korea over its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programmes.

But between 2018 and 2019, Xi and Kim met five times, thereby proving that China and North Korea's all-weather friendship remains intact.

Dr Rajaram Panda was formerly a Senior Fellow, Institute of Defence Studies and Analysis.

Feature Presentation: Ashish Narsale/


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