North Korea’s first ICBM test in five years was a missile capable of flying farther with a larger payload than earlier ones. But, experts say the weapon is unlikely to move the needle on any negotiations with the US.
North Korea continues to advance its military technology in the face of international pressure and sanctions that have been unable to deter Pyongyang’s development of more capable and deadly weaponry.
North Korea has carried out more than a dozen weapons tests in the first three months of 2022, but an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) test on Thursday appears to be a new milestone.
What has been called the “monster missile” by analysts, the “Hwasong-17” is the largest ICBM Pyongyang has ever tested.
“If launched on a normal trajectory, it would range the entirety of the continental United States with some range to spare,” Ankit Panda, an Asia-Pacific security expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, told DW.
North Korea has not tested an ICBM since 2017, and leader Kim Jong Un said in April 2018 that Pyongyang “no longer needed” to test long-range missiles and nuclear weapons before two summits with former US President Donald Trump.
Now, five years later, Kim has personally observed an ICBM launch, with accompanying propaganda broadcast in state media lauding a “new strategic weapon … confirming the modernity of our strategic force.”
Pyongyang said the Hwasong-17 launch will “clearly show the might of our strategic force to the whole world once again,” while warning that North Korea was “fully ready” to “contain any military attempts by US imperialists.”
North Korea is banned from testing ICBMs, and the US has already announced sanctions in response to the tests.
However, as has been seen with past failures at “denuclearization,” the Kim regime’s actions show that it considers military deterrence as more important to its survival opposed to any damage sanctions could cause.
“Every test yields useful data for the North Koreans on improving the credibility of their nuclear deterrent,” Panda said.
What do we know about Hwasong-17?
The Hwasong-17 was first revealed at a military parade in October 2020, although this week was the first time it was test fired, according to 38 North, a US-based think tank.
An ICBM is a guided missile designed to deliver nuclear warheads at a range of between 5,500 to 16,000 kilometers (3,400 to 9,900 miles), although they can also deliver other payloads. ICBMs are also much faster and have a greater range than other types of ballistic missiles.
North Korean media reported Hwasong-17 flew to an altitude of over 6,200 kilometers for 67 minutes at a range of 1,090 kilometers before hitting a target in the sea. Japan and South Korea also reported similar data. 38 North said the missile is estimated to be 2.5 meters in diameter.