North Korea says ICBM firing a strong warning to South Korea, US

The Hwasong-18 ICBM made the longest-ever flight for a North Korean missile, according to state media, travelling 1,001.2 km for nearly 75 minutes.

Ji Da-gyum

Ji Da-gyum

The Korea Herald


North Korea fires a Hwasong-18 solid-fuel intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) on Wednesday in this photo released by North Korea's state-run Korean Central News Agency. (Yonhap)

July 14, 2023

SEOUL – While admitting to launching the newly developed Hwasong-18 intercontinental ballistic missile, North Korea on Thursday said the latest missile test the day before was carried out to convey a “strong practical warning” to its adversaries.

The Central Military Commission of the ruling Workers’ Party of Korea made the “strategic judgment and crucial decision” to conduct on Wednesday the second test-firing of the Hwasong-18 solid-fuel ICBM, according to North Korean state-run media.

The decision came at a critical juncture where the military security situation on the Korean Peninsula and in the region has escalated to a level of nuclear crisis surpassing that of the Cold War era.

The allegation is noteworthy given that the inaugural meeting of the Nuclear Consultative Group between South Korea and the US is scheduled to take place next Tuesday in Seoul. Additionally, the US intends to deploy its nuclear-armed ballistic missile submarine to South Korea in the near future, marking the first such deployment since the 1980s.

While guiding the launch, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un emphasized that the prevailing unstable security situation has further reinforced the legitimacy of North Korea’s commitment to “bolstering nuclear war deterrent(s),” as outlined during the Eighth Congress held in January 2021.

Kim also vowed to take “a series of stronger military offensive(s)” until the US and South Korea “admit their shameful defeat of their useless hostile policies toward the DPRK in despair and give up their policies,” referring to the North’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

In a report presented to the National Assembly on Thursday, the Unification Ministry evaluated that Pyongyang has resumed its increase of pressure on Seoul and Washington in a bid to overcome the challenging situation that arose after the failure of its initial launch of a purported military reconnaissance satellite on May 31.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un (front) inspects the launch of a Hwasong-18 solid-fuel intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) on Wednesday, in this photo released by North Korea’s state-run Korean Central News Agency. (Yonhap)

North Korean state media also said the Hwasong-18 ICBM launch aimed to reaffirm the “technical credibility and operational reliability of the new-type ICBM weapon system.”

The Hwasong-18 ICBM made the longest-ever flight for a North Korean missile, according to state media, traveling 1,001.2 kilometers for nearly 75 minutes before landing in international waters of the East Sea.

Experts have emphasized that the second test launch, occurring three months after the initial test-firing of the Hwasong-18 on April 13, signifies mounting and existential missile threats posed by solid-fuel ICBMs.

Solid-fuel missiles possess certain advantages over liquid-fueled missiles. Solid-fuel missiles can be fueled during the manufacturing process, enabling quicker deployment. Therefore, their launch can be conducted with minimal risk of detection and tracking, enhancing their mobility and survivability capabilities.

“The significance of the successful second test launch of the solid-fueled ICBM is that North Korea has validated North Korea’s development and technology of a high-thrust, large-scale solid rocket propulsion system,” said Chang Young-keun, director of the missile center at the Korea Research Institute for National Strategy.

“The development indicates that the United States is confronted with a growing and multifaceted threat posed by North Korean ICBMs. One of the longstanding obstacles in North Korea’s rocket technology was the development of a high-thrust, large-scale solid rocket motor,” Chang said.

Yang Uk, a research fellow at the Asan Institute for Policy Studies, pointed out that the latest test launch demonstrated that Hwasong-18 ICBM has a range of around 15,000 kilometers. But it is important to note that this does not necessarily imply that North Korea has completed missile development.

The first stage of the Hwasong-18 ICBM flew at a normal angle, and the second and third stages flew at a lofted trajectory.

“Consequently, North Korea has not yet proven certain performance criteria necessary for modern ICBMs. These criteria include the ability to control a warhead during reentry into the atmosphere at a normal angle and the capability to strike targets using multiple warheads,” Yang said.

“Without demonstrating such capabilities, North Korea’s ICBM development will not be recognized as fully successful by the US and South Korea.”

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