N. Korea tests intercontinental ballistic missile, boasting nuclear counterstrike capability

The tests would make enemies "experience a clearer security crisis," warns leader Kim Jong Un.
Baba Tamim
North Korea's ballistic missile being carried on a tank
North Korea's ballistic missile

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North Korea has carried out one more intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) test on Friday, escalating tensions with South Korea.

The Hwasong-18 missile, which uses solid fuel rather than liquid fuel, was designed to "radically promote" North Korea's nuclear counterattack capabilities, according to the state media.

The tests would make enemies "experience a clearer security crisis, and constantly strike extreme uneasiness and horror into them by taking fatal and offensive counter-actions until they abandon their senseless thinking and reckless acts," warned North Korea's Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un, who guided the test. 

The missile was fired from a location close to Pyongyang and traveled around 620 miles (1,000 kilometers) before touching down in the seas to the east of North Korea. 

The test comes after North Korea denounced recent U.S.-South Korean joint military exercises, which heightened tensions.

Analysts believe North Korea already possesses nuclear counterstrike capabilities. 

"I think it demonstrates technological progress, but I would not describe this as a game changer," Ankit Panda, a nuclear policy expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, told CNN

According to the defense ministry of South Korea, North Korea is continuing to work on the weapon and would likely conduct additional tests to perfect the technology. 

North Korea has long sought to create a solid-fuel ICBM because it would enable them to launch missiles more quickly in the event of a conflict.

Solid-fuel ICBM

Solid-fuel missiles, according to analysts, are preferable since they don't need to be fueled right before deployment and are far more responsive in an emergency.

Such missiles are simpler, safer, and need less logistical support than liquid-fuel missiles, according to a Reuters report

North Korea will probably still utilize some liquid-fuel systems, making it more difficult for the U.S. and its allies to make accurate calculations in the event of a confrontation, noted Reuters

This is the first time the North has used solid propellants in an ICBM or intermediate-range missile.

As per South Korean military officials, the missile's greatest height was less than 3,730 miles (6,000 kilometers), which was the apogee of some of last year's record-breaking tests.

During a military parade in February, Pyongyang exhibited what might have been a brand-new solid-fuel ICBM. In December, it tested a high-thrust solid-fuel engine. 

However, with the help of early warning satellites that can spot discrepancies in the infrared data provided by different missile types, the U.S. can distinguish whether a missile is solid- or liquid-fueled.

The most recent launch came days after Kim advocated for bolstering war deterrents in a "more practical and offensive" way to oppose what North Korea called American aggression. 

According to a scholar at the University of North Korean Studies, North Korea would most likely perform additional tests to gather the necessary data because the missile test did not show the rocket's typical flight pattern.