It has conducted nine weapons tests this year, including banned hypersonic and medium-range missiles. In January it hinted that it might lift the moratorium, and it has conducted nine missile tests this year, including a new one that is troubling.
According to analysts, the newest missile would appear to be the largest road-mobile, liquid-fueled one anywhere in the world – and be capable of carrying multiple warheads in independent reentry vehicles (MIRVs).
Watchers of North Korea regularly warn that Pyongyang’s parade devices could be mock-ups or models, and there’s no way of knowing if they work until they are tested.
Since the end of 2017, Pyongyang has kept to its moratorium on ICBM and nuclear weapons testing. This followed Kim Jong Un’s high-profile diplomatic engagement with then-US president Donald Trump.
In spite of efforts by US President Biden to engage in fresh negotiations, negotiations later collapsed and diplomacy has languished ever since.
In an earlier report, North Korean state media reported that Kim visited the space center in Pyongyang earlier this week and praised scientists there for their work on the “reconnaissance missile.”
Yoon Suk-yeol, the new president-elect of South Korea, has vowed to take a hard line when it comes to the North’s provocations. A new ICBM (Intercontinental Ballistic Missile) launch would be a big challenge for him.
Yoon has not ruled out the possibility of dialogue with Pyongyang, but analysts say his hawkish stance sets him on a completely different footing and reduces the prospect of substantive engagement significantly.
Pyongyang recently conducted two missile tests of a new intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) system, marking a “serious escalation” that will be punished by fresh sanctions, a senior US official said Thursday.
According to North Korea, the Feb 26 and Mar 4 tests were aimed at developing a reconnaissance satellite, but according to a US official, rigorous analysis determined they were likely precursors to a future full-range ICBM test.
A launch of this magnitude would end Pyongyang’s self-imposed moratorium on missile launches since 2017 and send military tensions soaring on the Korean peninsula and abroad.
North Korea has tested at least three ICBMs, most recently in November 2017 with the Hwasong-15 – deemed capable of reaching Washington and the rest of the United States.
A US official said Pyongyang’s recent two tests involved a relatively new intercontinental ballistic missile system, which Pyongyang first displayed in October 2020.
“This is a serious escalation,” the official said, adding that neither launch demonstrated ICBM range or capability, but they were clearly designed “to test elements of this new system before (North Korea) conducts a launch in full range.”
The North Koreans will likely disguise the test as a launch into space, the official said.
Before carrying out its ICBM tests in 2017, the North had launched a number of powerful rockets that it claimed were part of a wider civilian space program.
The official said the US Treasury would announce new steps on Friday to prevent Pyongyang from accessing “foreign items and technology” to advance its nuclear weapons program. North Korea is already facing severe international sanctions over its missile and nuclear weapons programs.