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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Hwasong 12 IRBM

On 29 August 2017 the DPRK fired a missile from an area near the capital Pyongyang, passed over the Japanese territory and landed in the Pacific Ocean, after a flight of about 2,500-2,735 km (over 1,700 miles). It was lofted as high as 548-550 km (340 miles). It later broke into three pieces before falling into the Pacific Ocean, according to Japanese media. According to South Korean media reports, South Korea's military saw the missile as the DPRK's newly developed Hwasong-12 intermediate-range ballistic missile, which Pyongyang said in May had been successfully test-fired.

North Korea conducted a successful test of a new two-stage liquid fueled rocket on Sunday 14 May 2017. The missile was said to be capable of flying 4,000, and up to 4,500 kilometers. The North Korean state news agency KCNA said the test was to verify the capability to carry a "large scale heavy nuclear warhead," and the missile flew 787 kilometers, reaching an altitude of 2,111 kilometers. Preliminary assessment by US authorities indicated that North Korea launched a liquid-fuel single-stage KN-17 missile, NBC News reported citing two military officials. But this nomenclature was previously associated with a much smaller shorter range missile.

This was the seventh missile provocation by Pyongyang this year alone, and comes just two weeks after a missile test that South Korean and US officials said failed. South Korea's military confirmed that the North launched a ballistic missile Sunday morning, around 5:30 a.m. Seoul time, from an area near the city of Kusong, about 120 kilometers northwest of the regime's capital. According to the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the missile flew some 700 kilometers, and judging by the flight distance, military experts are looking at the launch as a successful one.

Some experts added to the doubts on the effectiveness and development of the Hwaseong-12, as they have pointed to video footage showing how the missile was launched from a stationary system instead of the preferred and more difficult to counter mobile system.

Japanese government officials said that the North launched a ballistic missile into the Sea of Japan from near Kusong in the northwestern province of Pyongan-pukdo. They said it is the first time a North Korean missile has reached an altitude of over 2,000 kilometers. According to Japan, the missile reached an altitude of more than 2,000 kilometers in a matter of about 30 minutes before falling into the East Sea in Japan's Exclusive Economic Zone, suggesting it was launched at a steep, or "lofted," angle.

The altitude reached by the missile meant it was launched at a high trajectory, which would limit the lateral distance it travelled. But if it was fired at a standard trajectory, it could have easily reached a distance of 4,500 kilometers. Guam is 3,400 km from North Korea. The missile could not have reached Alaska, at about 5,700 kilometers, or Hawaii at about 7,000 kilometers. An ICBM has a minimum range of about 5,000 or 6,000 kilometers. The US military's Pacific Command said the type of missile that was fired was "not consistent with an intercontinental ballistic missile."

"North Korea's latest successful missile test represents a level of performance never before seen from a North Korean missile," Washington-based monitoring project, 38 North, said in an analysis. "It appears to have not only demonstrated an intermediate-range ballistic missile (IRBM) that might enable them to reliably strike the US base at Guam, but more importantly, may represent a substantial advance to developing an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM)," it said.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un was said to have been at the launch site to oversee the test. He was cited as saying that nuclear weapons capabilities shall not be monopolized by the US and he is sure the day will come for his regime to be able to take corresponding retaliatory measures against the US. The young North Korean leader said the US' mainland and its Pacific theater of command is within its striking range.

Monday's edition of the North's communist party Rodong Sinmun newspaper carried 36 photos of a missile climbing upward and Kim watching the launch. The state-run media outlets quoted Kim Jong Un as saying that the US mainland and Pacific operation region are now within North Korea's striking range.

"The test-fire aimed at verifying the tactical and technological specifications of the newly-developed ballistic rocket capable of carrying a large-size heavy nuclear warhead," the North's official KCNA news agency said. "If the US awkwardly attempts to provoke the DPRK, it will not escape from the biggest disaster in history," KCNA quoted Kim as saying. The DPRK leader accused the US of "browbeating" countries that "have no nukes" and warned Washington not to misjudge the reality that its mainland is in the North's "sighting range for a strike," KCNA reported.

Just days after being elected, South Korean President Moon Jae-in faced his first North Korean provocation, putting an early test to his stated policy to pursue peaceful dialogue with his defiant nuclear neighbor. The South Korean leader expressed solidarity with the United States and Japan. Within an hour from North Korea's missile test, South Korea's new President Moon Jae-in ordered an urgent meeting of top security officials condemning the move and calling it "deeply regrettable" as the provocation came only days after Moon took office calling for dialogue with the North.

The President said the missile launch was a clear violation of the UN Security Council's resolutions and a grave threat to the peace and safety of the international community, let alone the Korean peninsula. President Moon reconfirmed that the new administration has its door open for dialogue with North Korea, but dialogue is possible only when the North changes its attitude. South Korea's commander-in-chief said Seoul must act decisively against Pyongyang's provocations so that it will not miscalculate and make a wrong move calling on his military to be fully prepared for any future provocation by North Korea.

North Korean missile are very un-American. Much as Carl Sagan spoke of UFO sightings as "brief occasions of amazement", the DPRK presents a bewildering richness of design variants that challenge taxanomic simplification. The Western mindset is seeking a small number of discrete prototypes that presage large scale production. This "big iron" archetype is best set aside in favor of a Burt Rutan / Skunk Works metaphor, in which each DRPK rocket is hand made with specifications responding to unique requirements.

North Korea fired at least one projectile off its east coast on 05 January 2022, South Korea's military said. The projectile was fired into the sea east of the Korean peninsula, South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement. They later added that it was suspected to be a Hwasong-12 variant ballistic missile. Japanese media reported that the suspected ballistic missile landed in the Sea of Japan, outside of Japanese territorial waters. Japan's defense minister, Nobuo Kishi, told reporters that the projectile flew about 500 kilometres (300 miles).

The North Korean state news agency said the missile fired into the sea off the east of the Korean Peninsula was a hypersonic weapon. It's Pyongyang's second reported test of a hypersonic gliding missile to date — after one it claimed in September 2021 — and is the first missile launch from North Korea since October 2021. The shape of the Hwasong-8 hypersonic glider launched in September appeared wedge-shaped, different than the conical-shaped glider launched this week. The arrowhead-shaped vehicle with stubby wings resembling a hypersonic glide vehicle" was atop an intermediate-range ballistic missile (IRBM) resembling a substantially shortened version of a Hwasong-12 ballistic missile.

State news agency KCNA said the missile carried a "hypersonic gliding warhead" that "precisely hit a target 700 kilometers away", , including a lateral maneuver that took it some 120 kilometers. The test "reconfirmed the flight control and stability of the missile in the active-flight stage and assessed the performance of the new lateral movement technique applied to the detached hypersonic gliding warhead," the agency said.

The test also was said to have verified “the reliability of fuel ampoule system under the winter weather conditions.” North Korea announced “The successive successes in the test launches in the hypersonic missile sector have strategic significance in that they hasten a task for modernizing strategic armed force of the state… and help fulfill the most important core task out of the five top priority tasks for the strategic arms sector in the five-year plan”.

The South Korean defense ministry played down Pyongyang's claim that it successfully tested a hypersonic missile on Jan. 5, saying that North Korea had instead launched a Maneuverable Reentry Vehicle.

North Korea claimed 11 January 2022 that it had successfully conducted another 'hypersonic missile' test, under the watch of its leader Kim Jong-un. The regime's state-run media KCNA said the missile "precisely hit" a target some one-thousand kilometers away. It said the missile released its rocket booster after 600 kilometers of "glide jump flight" followed by 240 kilometers of "corkscrew” maneuvering. It also referred to the latest test-fire as the "ultimate test launch", and said that it confirmed the weapon's outstanding maneuverability.

This shows signs that such missiles could soon be ready to be deployed. Kim Jong-un stressed the regime should further accelerate efforts to steadily build up the country's strategic military power. Kim Jong-un's sister Kim Yo-jong hasn't been reportedly promoted, but she was also seen at the test site.

Unlike ballistic missiles that gain altitude before returning on steep trajectories, hypersonic weapons travel at lower altitudes. Also, hypersonic missiles are seen as a game changer, because they are harder to track and intercept, as they are easier to maneuver and can dodge interceptors. The North did indeed make a so-called "corkscrew maneuver", aimed at evading interception. "Maneuverability is very important for hypersonic missiles. Given the flight trajectory that North Korea reported and the one that the Japanese defense ministry released on Tuesday, we can tell that it did make a spiral maneuver."

The latest launch marks the third reported test of a hypersonic missile, two of which were conducted within a week. The launch was the only test launch that Kim Jong-un attended. The North had first test-fired a hypersonic missile named 'Hwasung-8' in September 2021. It traveled 200 kilometers at around three times the speed of sound.

Following the North's latest launch, South Korea's military had said that according to their initial assessment, the latest missile flew more than 700 kilometers, and its maximum altitude reached up to 60 kilometers. It also said it traveled at a speed of up to ten times the speed of sound, or more than 12-thousand kilometers per hour. At this speed, Seoul can be reached in just one minute, and anywhere in the Korean Peninsula in less than two minutes.

After its release from the missile, the hypersonic glide vehicle made glide jump flight from 600 kilometer before making a 240 kilometer corkscrew maneuver from the initial launch azimuth to the target azimuth, and hit the set target in waters 1,000 kilometers away, the KCNA report said. The test showed the missile's hypersonic speed and high maneuverability it needs to penetrate hostile defenses. But convincing evidence needs to be shown in order for the public to know if the missile can hit its target accurately.

The ROK's JCS referred to the missile tested on 11 January as an "improvement" over the 5 January projectile. South Korean defense officials have compared the two launches. They said the missile that went up last week only reached hypersonic speeds for a portion of the flight. They said the latest one flew further and traveled twice as fast.

A U.S. State Department spokesperson told RFA’s Korean Service the test was a “violation of multiple U.N. Security Council Resolutions and poses a threat to [North Korea’s] neighbors and the international community.” The U.S. Indo-Pacific Command said in a statement that although the launch did not “pose an immediate threat to U.S. personnel or territory, or to our allies, the missile launch highlights the destabilizing impact of the DPRK’s illicit weapons program.”

A UN spokesperson said Secretary-General Antonio Guterres was "very concerned" by the North's missile launch, urging the regime to comply with all relevant Security Council resolutions. "As we've said again, we are convinced and believe that diplomatic engagement is the only way to reach a sustainable peace and a complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula." Japan also shared their regret. "North Korea had just recently launched a ballistic missile, and the United Nations Security Council had just held discussions on how to respond to it. Under these circumstances, it is very regrettable that North Korea continues to launch missiles."

Japan's Defense Minister Kishi Nobuo said he is committed to protecting people's lives and maintaining peace while working closely with the relevant countries. He said he will consider all options for Japan, including possessing the ability to strike enemy bases and drastically boosting the nation's defense capabilities.

“The reason why North Korea conducts these tests every few days is to complete the development of strategic weapons and nuclear weapons to an irreversible level,” Hong Min, director of the North Korea Research Division at the Seoul-based Korea Institute for National Unification, told RFA. “It seems to be a series of actions in the beginning of the process to make sure that it is a matter of sovereignty at the level of self-defense as the international community continues to raise issues,” Hong said.

North Korea conducted its largest missile test since 2017 on 30 January 2022, sending a suspected intermediate-range ballistic missile soaring into space, seen as taking the nuclear-armed country a step closer to resuming long-range testing. South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff reported that a projectile believed to be a single ballistic missile was launched about 7:52 a.m. (2252 GMT) toward the ocean off its east coast. It was launched from Mupyong-ri, Jagang province, flew a distance of 800km, and reached a maximum altitude of 2000km in a lofted, high-angle trajectory. The maximum speed was estimated a around Mach 16 (after boost phase), and generally seemed to have specifications analogous to the Hwasong-12.

“The inspection firing test was conducted for the purpose of selectively inspecting the ground-to-ground mid-range long-range ballistic missile Hwasong-12 and verifying the overall accuracy of this weapon system,” KCNA said. KCNA said the missile launch was conducted in a way to ensure the safety of neighboring countries, and that the test warhead was fitted with a camera that took photos while it was in space.

South Korea's National Security Council (NSC), which convened a rare emergency meeting presided over by President Moon Jae-in, said the test appeared to involve an intermediate-range ballistic missile (IRBM), which North Korea has not tested since 2017. The launch takes North Korea a step closer to fully scrapping a self-imposed moratorium on testing its longest-range intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), Moon said. He noted that this month's flurry of missile tests was reminiscent of the heightened tensions in 2017, when North Korea conducted multiple nuclear tests and launched its largest missiles, including some that flew over Japan.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has said he is no longer bound by that moratorium, which included a stop to nuclear weapons tests and was announced in 2018 amid a flurry of diplomacy and summits with then-U.S. President Donald Trump. North Korea's rulers suggested they could restart those testing activities because the United States and its allies had shown no sign of dropping their "hostile policies."

A U.S. State Department spokesperson said the launch demonstrated the threat posed by North Korea's unlawful weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missile programmes, and called on Pyongyang to engage in "sustained and substantive" dialogue. Indo-Pacific Command [USINDOPACOM] Public Affairs stated "We are aware of the DPRK’s ballistic missile launch today and are consulting closely with the Republic of Korea (ROK) and Japan, as well as other regional allies and partners. The United States condemns these actions and calls on the DPRK to refrain from further destabilizing acts. While we have assessed that this event does not pose an immediate threat to U.S. personnel, territory, or that of our allies, we will continue to monitor the situation. The U.S. commitment to the defense of the ROK and Japan, remains ironclad."

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Page last modified: 08-05-2022 19:35:46 ZULU