North Korea has confirmed its latest weapons launch was a second test of its newest intercontinental ballistic missile, the Hwasong-18, saying it will “clearly show” Washington the danger and recklessness of its military choices on the peninsula.
The North’s leader, Kim Jong Un, who was present at the morning launch, also forewarned of “a series of stronger military offensive[s] … until the U.S. imperialists and the south Korean puppet traitors admit their shameful defeat of their useless hostile policy” against Pyongyang, according to state media KCNA Thursday.
The report added that the region is in a “phase of nuclear crisis beyond the Cold War era,” citing the deployment of an American nuclear-powered submarine and nuclear strategic bombers to South Korea as well as a planned inaugural meeting of the allies’ Nuclear Consultative Group (NCG) next week.
Both are commitments the U.S. made to Seoul as part of the Washington Declaration in April to galvanize deterrence amid growing North Korean threats and to reassure the South Korean public of its commitment to defend it in the event of a nuclear emergency on the peninsula.
The Hwasong-18 ICBM is part of North Korea’s long-term plan to build a state nuclear force, KCNA said, to deter and overwhelmingly respond to “the diverse threat of a nuclear war” and reliably defend its security.
The three-stage solid-fueled ICBM Wednesday soared at a lofted trajectory for 74.8 minutes, state media said, North Korea’s longest running flight to-date. It hit an apex of 6,648.4 kilometers to splash down in waters 1,001.2 kilometers from its point of launch, Pyongyang confirmed.
South Korea’s Defense Ministry would not provide additional details during a regular briefing Thursday, saying only that analysis of intelligence is continuing with their U.S. counterparts.
Analysts in Seoul say Wednesday’s launch shows that progress has been made since the initial test in April, during which the Hwasong-18 only reached a top altitude short of 3,000 kilometers.
“The [doubled] engine thrust is strong enough to deliver a 1,000 kilogram payload further than 15,000 kilometers,” said Kim Dong Yup, a professor of military and security studies at the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul. That range would put the U.S. mainland within reach.
“It’s in line with goals presented at the Eighth Party Congress in 2021, to advance North Korea’s nuclear preemptive and retaliatory strike capabilities with the ability to annihilate targets within that 15,000 kilometer range.”
While more tests are still needed, the Hwasong-18 could feature prominently at a military parade later this month, marking the 70th anniversary of the pause in the Korean War, which North Korea claims it won. It could be a rare but meaningful military display for Kim Jong Un’s regime, which only showed off a model of the new ICBM in February.