North Korea launches its new "Hwasong-17" ICMB. Should the world be worried?

It claims the ICBM is the largest ever launched.
Christopher McFadden
"Hwasong-17" intercontinental ballistic missileKCNA

Reports are in that North Korea has just test-launched their new "Hwasong-17" intercontinental ballistic missile. The longest-range missile platform developed to date by the country, it has been developed, by all accounts, to help "contain" U.S. military threats. 

The test launch was guided by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on the 24th of March 2022. 

Pyongyang has stated that it carried out the test to “ensure the scientific and technical reliability of [the Hwasong-17’s] prompt operation under the wartime condition,” as neighboring countries and the U.S. condemn the launch as a major provocation. 

This marks the first full intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) test in North Korea since November 2017. First revealed on a military parade in October of 2020, it is also considered the largest nuclear-capable missile platform in North Korea's possession. 

“It is necessary to make clear that whoever tries to infringe upon the security of our state shall pay dearly,” Kim reportedly said, according to the Rodong Sinmun.

“Our state defense capability will make thorough preparations for long confrontation with U.S. imperialism on the basis of the tremendous military-technical force unflinching even to any military threat and blackmail,” he added.

Kim continued to explain that the “Strategic Force of the DPRK is fully ready to thoroughly check and contain any dangerous military attempt of the U.S. imperialists,” and that “the new strategic weapon of the DPRK will clearly show the might of our strategic force to the whole world once again.”

From North Korean state media reports it is not clear whether the missile is actually ready for deployment. But, it was stated that North Korean Strategic Forces will "equip and operate" the missile to "reliably perform its mission and duty as a powerful nuclear war deterrent.”

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South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) on Thursday said the missile flew 671 miles (1,080 km) and reached an altitude of 3,853 miles (6,200 km). According to Japanese military sources, the ICBM flew for 71 minutes until it eventually splashed down 93 miles (150 km) west off the coast of Toshima Peninsula in Hokkaido, within Japan’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).

This is corroborated, in part, by North Korean reports on the test launch which said it flew for 67 minutes from its launch location at the Pyongyang International Airport. Reports have not conformed to the missile's maximum range, but it is obviously much larger than the “Hwasong-15” ICBM.

This particular ICBM was developed, so North Korean state media has claimed previously, to strike the “entire” U.S. mainland.

“The intercontinental ballistic missile was test-fired vertically in consideration of the security of the [neighboring] states,” North Korea said Friday.

You can watch the launch in the following video. 

The test launch has spooked the international community

Unsurprisingly, international reactions have been less than complimentary. 

South Korean President Moon Jae-in, for example,  “strongly condemned” the launch as a “grave threat.” The Japanese foreign minister and the U.S. Secretary of State called it a “clear and serious challenge” to the world.

The United States has declared the launch as a “brazen violation” of multiple U.N. Security Council resolutions that ban North Korea from testing ballistic missiles. However, it is important to note that Pyongyang does not recognize these resolutions as legitimate. 

The Biden administration called on Pyongyang to “immediately cease its destabilizing actions,” but added that “the door has not closed on diplomacy.”

As for North Korea's allies, China, who actually condemned North Korea’s last ICBM launch in November 2017, did not offer its own assessment of the latest test on Thursday, with the foreign ministry calling for “peace and stability” on the Korean Peninsula.

This latest test appears to be in direct contradiction with Kim Jong Un's previously declared moratorium on testing nuclear weapons and ICBMs in 2018. This formed part of the warming of relations between the U.S. (under President Trump) and South Korea. However, with a new U.S. administration in the White House Jong Un appears to have rescinded this decision this past January by instructing officials to “rapidly examine the issue on resuming” such testing.

He said in Friday’s missile test report that North Korea will “concentrate all efforts of the state on continuously strengthening defense capabilities.”

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