the “most powerful piece” of its nuclear arsenal

the “most powerful piece” of its nuclear arsenal

North Korea has confirmed that this past Thursday, April 13, it carried out the launch of a new type of intercontinental ballistic missile. The projectile is the so-called Hwasong-18 and, according to the North Korean Government, it is the “most powerful piece” of its nuclear arsenal.

The missile traveled about 1,000 kilometers before falling into the waters of the Sea of Japan.all of which, once again, was supervised by Kim Jong-un himself, this time together with his daughter, according to the state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA). The test triggered a brief evacuation order on the Japanese island of Hokkaido.

Twelve missiles launched in 2023 alone.

The Hwasong-18 joins a series of more than 100 missiles launched into the sea since the beginning of 2022, of which twelve in 2023. The novelty is that this time we are dealing with an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) of solid fuel.

A North Korean missile, in a file image.

North Korea claims that this its latest long-range missile uses solid propellants and is intended to strike the United States and its allies in Asia. Solid-fueled, the projectile represents a major improvement in the efficiency of the North Korean arsenal.

The test of a solid-fuel ICBM is important because. Are more stable than liquid-fueled ones. North Korea has previously tested. Like the main U.S. ICBM, the Minuteman III, which is powered by three solid-fuel rocket engines, the Hwasong-18 has three stages, reports CNN.

Photo released by the North's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) of the launch of a Hwasong-15 intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) at Pyongyang International Airport on Feb. 18.
Launch of a Hwasong-15 missile in Pyongyang last February 18.

The importance of solid fuel

According to Joseph Dempsey, a researcher at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, a solid-fuel ICBM would be fueled during its fabrication and could be more easily moved to avoid detection prior to launch. In contrast, a liquid-fueled ICBM would have to undergo a refueling process at its launch site that could take hours, giving an adversary time to detect and neutralize it.

Liquid-fueled were the three previous ICBMs launched by Pyongyang since 2017: Hwasong-14, 15 and 17. However, with them, in theory, it could reach the entire U.S. territory and almost the entire planet (except South America).

For Jeffrey Lewis, analyst of the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation StudiesIt is “no surprise” that North Korea has tested a solid-fuel ICBM, given that “it is easier to use them”, has written on Twitter.

Counterattack capability.

“North Korea was always going to follow the same technical path as the United States, the Soviet Union, France, China, Israel, and India. Since North Korea has been testing large-diameter solid rocket motors for several years, it has been clear (at least to me) that from 2020 such a test could have come at any time.“, assures this expert.

For his part, Dempsey has referred to the change from liquid to solid fuel. “The addition of solid-fueled intercontinental ballistic missiles to the missile force would turn it into a more credible strategic deterrent by providing a preemptive and retaliatory capability. more capable and less vulnerable.” In other words, with the Hwasong-18 the North Korean arsenal now makes it virtually impossible to try to attack Kim Jong-un without retaliation from that country.

Or as the North Korean leader himself has said, the new projectile “will improve the nuclear counterattack capability of the country.” That is its power and its danger.

Kayleigh Williams