A U.S. expert on North Korea says U.S. government officials are growing concerned that North Korea could unveil a new type of long-range ballistic missile capable of striking the U.S. homeland with a nuclear weapon. In an article contributed to American Conservative magazine on 02 September 2020, Harry Kazianis, Senior Director of Korean Studies at the Center for the National Interest, said a senior White House official and multiple U.S. intelligence officials had expressed such concerns to him over the last few days.
According to Kazianis, the U.S. officials strongly suspect Pyongyang will unveil a solid-fueled intercontinental-range ballistic missile (ICBM) at its October tenth military parade celebrating the 75th anniversary of its ruling party. Kazianis assessed that such a public display would represent a generational shift in Pyongyang’s missile technology, as the North’s current long-range mobile ICBMs use a liquid-based fuel. He added that such a reveal could be used to signal strength to whoever wins the U.S. presidential election in November and to create much-needed positive news domestically.
C.P.Vick noted in July 2018 "The present five year plan January 1, 2016-january 1, 2021 solid motor ballistic missile R&D development/production infrastructure expansion was planned as a part of the present five year plan well before the Kim regimes directional change. It can be interpreted as the standard deception way of life in the DPRK or Kim buying time for the system to finish development of the dummy paraded displayed solid motor development ICBM’s. That technology is PRC Chinese technology transfer period. Since it is a part of the present DPRK five year plan that program will continue at least to the middle of the next five year plan. Other nuclear programs reflect the same FYP pacing though the Kim regime did run the accelerated FYP in this 2016-2021 FYP roughly doing the associated activities in half the time of a normal FYP. They carried out the sacrificing the missile designs that failed replacing those that worked right but time is still need to finish the technical developments for the bus stages and the RV’s. Even the assistance from the technology exchange agreement with Iran has not resolved this serious technological issues in the DPRK missile programs which requires time because Iran is not that advanced. Thus Kim is faced with the required buying of time for those issues which is implied in obvious discussions mentioned between Kim and the US etc.. Be warned that deception is the name of this game by the DPRK and China. IE: no surprised to me here as it was already previously shown by them before the changes in the works."
South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff confirmed that North Korea fired a ballistic missile on 02 October 2019 from waters near the eastern port city of Wonsan in North Korea's Kangwon-do Province. North Korean state media confirmed that the projectile was a medium-range ballistic missile of a type called the Pukguksong-3, a sea-based version of the ground-launched ballistic missile Pukguksong-2. The "Pukguksong-3" nomenclature had previously been associated with a longer-range, three stage ICBM. The current nomenclature of this ICBM was not known as of late 2019. Probably it would not be "Pukguksong" which means Polaris, an homage to the American program, but the new name was unknown.
On 23 August 2017 North Korea’s leader ordered the production of more rocket warheads and engines, shortly after the United States suggested that its threats of military action and sanctions were having an impact on Pyongyang’s behavior. Inspecting the country’s Chemical Material Institute of the Academy of Defense Science, which develops missiles, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un instructed the workers at the plant to “produce more solid-fuel rocket engines and rocket warhead tips.”
The North Korean state news agency also released photos that appeared to show the designs of one or possibly two new missiles that had not been seen before. One of the photos showed a diagram for a missile called “Pukguksong-3,” which appeared to be the latest in its series. The diagram suggested that the Pukguksong-3 might be designed to fly farther and to be launched from protective canisters, which allow missiles to be transported more easily and makes them more difficult to locate and destroy in advance.
In a briefing held following a parliamentary hearing on 06 November 2019 South Korean lawmakers made it clear North Korea had NOT fired inter-continental ballistic missiles from transporter erector launchers, or TEL for short. The remarks followed some controversy surrounding North Korea's missile capabilities after Blue House National Security Director Chung Eui-yong's earlier statement in a hearing where he claimed that the North is not capable of firing ICBMs from TELs. "While Chung's comments may not be far from the truth the controversy overshadows the more important issue of whether North Korea has completed tech development related to solid-fuel missiles so it doesn’t have to rely on liquid fuel for its ICBMs."
Liquid-fuel is more risky to use compared to solid-fuel since it's easier to detect while fueling. To pour in liquid-fuel, the missile needs to be erected upright and according to a South Korean military source this is cited as one of the main reasons why the North is using TELs before transferring the missiles to immobile missile launchers. According to Chung's remarks, it's believed the North is not capable of striking the U.S. with nuclear-equipped ICBMs without being detected but according to experts North Korea's application of solid-fuel technology could be only a matter of time.
"North Korea can develop the technology in several years if it really wants to. The North's Pukguksong-2 missile uses solid-fuel and it has already revealed in the past in its military parade an ICBM that presumably operates on solid-fuel." It took the Soviet Union some 40 years to develop solid-fuel missiles into ICBMs but it could take North Korea a shorter period since the North has already acquired the basic technology. In October 2019, the North tested a newly developed submarine-launched ballistic missile, the Pukguksong-3, that utilizes solid-fuel technology which boasts greater propulsion, smaller resistance and is lighter than liquid-fuel missiles.
North Korea may have established a separate unit within its military for its solid fuel intercontinental ballistic missile operations. State media footage of the regime's Februar 2023 military parade showed several flags bearing an emblem of a missile flying beyond the Earth's atmosphere. One flag was spotted next to Kim Jong-un's wife as she entered the parade grounds and another was attached to a launcher vehicle that is believed to have carried a new type of solid fuel ICBM. Pundits believe these flags denote the presence of a new unit as they are different from the missile bureau flag seen in pictures earlier this month.