North Korea unveiled a new, larger intercontinental ballistic missile in a military parade on Saturday. BBC:lle author of a WMD expert Melissa Hanhamin according to the new missile should be taken seriously.
Hanham is the Deputy Director of the Open Nuclear Network (ONN), a nuclear weapons risk reduction company based in Vienna.
There are several reasons for North Korea’s nuclear readiness concerns.
First, the North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has referred to a new “strategic” weapon specifically in the minds of the United States. In practice, a strategic weapon refers to a nuclear weapon.
In his New Year’s address on January 1, 2020, Kim Jong Un said the U.S. will be “increasingly helpless” in front of North Korea in the future if the U.S. “plays time and hesitates” to improve relations between the two countries.
The missile now presented is a message to the US after negotiations with the US president Donald Trumpin with failed last fall.
North Korea wants more sophisticated missiles
The “flamboyant” size of the missile has surprised experts following North Korea. It is considered the world’s largest mobile intercontinental ballistic missile, he says Wall Street Journal.
The weapon has not yet been tested, meaning it is not yet known how far it will carry or whether it will be functional.
North Korea already has two tested intercontinental ballistic missiles. Both were tested in 2017. Both can transport the nuclear tip to western Europe or the United States. There is no longer a need for North Korea to increase its missile range.
The new missile works in a similar way to the previous Hwasong-14 and Hwasong-15. However, it is both larger in circumference and length than before.
According to Hanham, the new missile suggests that North Korea is aiming for a situation where it can launch multiple nuclear warheads with a single missile. Advanced nuclear-weapon states already have such multi-nuclear MIRV weapon systems in place.
If North Korea succeeds in its goal, this will, according to Hanham, pose new challenges to the U.S.’s already struggling nuclear weapons system.
The transport vehicle is of particular concern
According to Hanham, the vehicle carrying it is more worrying than the missile itself. The availability of transport and launch vehicles has in the past significantly limited North Korea’s nuclear capabilities.
The United States has estimated that North Korea would be able to launch up to 12 intercontinental ballistic missiles at one time. This is because North Korea is known to have only six vehicles suitable for launching. In the scenario, each vehicle would be used twice.
Previously existing launch vehicles have been canceled since 2010, when North Korea illegally imported six WS51200 vehicles from China and modified them to be suitable for launching missiles.
Now, however, more launch vehicles were presented at the parade. North Korea will therefore be able to procure the required parts for these launch vehicles despite the sanctions. It may also be able to manufacture its own launch vehicles.
North Korea’s message to the world is that its technological capabilities should not be underestimated.