North Korea appears to be mastering solid-fuel ICBMs, analysts suggest

North Korean state media has now confirmed that its latest test launch was, in fact, one of the nation's advanced Hwasong-18 ICBMs.
Christopher McFadden
Screenshot from the launch.

Ankit Panda/Twitter 

Further details have emerged about the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) test missile launch on Wednesday. Reported to the world by South Korean and Japanese spokespeople, DPRK state media has confirmed it was one of the nation's latest Hwasong-18 intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM). North Korean state media further explained that this missile is the core of its nuclear strike force and should be a warning to the United States and its allies.

US condemned launch

True to form, the launch was condemned by the United States, Japan, and South Korea, and the United Nations is due to meet today to discuss the incident. In April, the Hwasong-18 was introduced as North Korea's first ICBM to incorporate solid fuels. This enables faster missile deployment in times of war. "The test-fire is an essential process aimed at further developing the strategic nuclear force of the Republic and, at the same time, serves as a strong practical warning," DPRK state news agency KCNA said.

The KCNA, Reuters reports, has accused Washington of escalating tensions by deploying submarines and bombers to the Korean peninsula and engaging in nuclear war planning with South Korean allies. According to the KCNA, this military security situation has reached a phase of the nuclear crisis that goes "beyond the Cold War era." Kim Jong Un, the leader of North Korea, also supervised the test and declared that the country would implement stronger measures to safeguard itself until the US and its allies abandon their hostile policies.

According to a report by Ankit Panda, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace based in the US, it is impressive that North Korea's Hwasong-18 missile tests have been successful despite their lack of experience with other large, multi-stage solid-propellant missiles. The report was published by NK PRO, a Seoul-based organization that monitors North Korea.

"Just how North Korea has managed to attain this stunning level of success with its solid-propellant ICBM remains a mystery, but Kim Jong Un will have few complaints," Panda wrote. According to KCNA, the Hwasong-18 missile had a record-breaking flight time of 74 minutes during its recent test in North Korea. For safety reasons, the second and third stages of the missile were flown at a high altitude on a lofted trajectory.

Traveled 622 miles

"The test-fire had no negative effect on the security of the neighboring countries," it said. According to North Korea, the missile traveled over 621 miles (1,000 km) and reached an altitude of 4,131 miles (6,648 km). Japan reported that the missile landed in the sea, east of the Korean peninsula, approximately 155 miles (250km) west of Okushiri Island in northern Japan.

Photos released by KCNA showed the Hwasong-18 missile being launched from a transporter erector launcher (TEL) mounted on a multi-wheeled vehicle designed to enable missiles fired from unpredictable locations.

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