Pyongyang on Thursday launched, for the first time since 2017, a full-range intercontinental missile, which reached higher and farther than any projectile previously tested by the country, which has nuclear capability.
The test of the “new type of intercontinental ballistic missile”, the Hwasong-17, was carried out under the “direct guidance” of leader Kim Jong-un, the official KCNA news agency reported.
The launch is part of the “provocation strategy that has been developed over the past few months and will continue. We believe there are probably other things in store,” said US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan.
The United States asked the UN Security Council for a “resolution to update and strengthen the sanctions regime” against Pyongyang, which is already subject to significant punishments for the development of its nuclear and missile program.
Moscow and Beijing ruled out any steps in this direction, and the Chinese ambassador to the House, Zhang Jun, even advocated a “timely relief from sanctions.” As a result, Washington had to comply with a communiqué issued by 15 countries, condemning the launch.
The Hwasong-17 is a gigantic intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) first shown in a parade in October 2020 and defined as a “monster missile” by analysts.
Kim said the new weapon would “perform its mission as a powerful deterrent to nuclear war” and “make the world clearly aware of the power of the country’s strategic armed forces,” according to statements compiled by KCNA.
The North Korean leader assured that the country is “fully prepared for a long-term confrontation with the American imperialists”.
This first test provoked outrage among neighboring countries and the US government. The latter enacted new sanctions against entities and individuals in North Korea and Russia accused of “transferring sensitive items to Pyongyang’s missile program”.
– Kim’s supervision –
State media showed images of Kim walking on the airport runway, in front of the long missile, or celebrating the launch with other officials.
The South Korean military estimated that the missile, launched from Pyongyang International Airport, reached 6,248.5 km, far more than the last ICBM, the Hwasong-15, which North Korea tested in November 2017.
Japan claimed that the missile landed within its exclusive economic sea zone.
The South Korean Army put the missile’s range at 6,200 kilometers, far beyond the estimate for the Hwasong-15, tested in October 2017 by Pyongyang.
“North Korea has made important qualitative progress,” security analyst Ankit Panda told AFP.
“The North Koreans are on the verge of significantly increasing the threat to the United States,” he warned, adding that this ICBM can carry multiple warheads and more easily circumvent missile defense systems.
The G7, the European Union and the UN have denounced that the test violates Security Council resolutions.
– Breach of moratorium –
Despite the strictest international sanctions for its weapons and nuclear program, North Korea has carried out a dozen tests since the beginning of the year.
Pyongyang officially suspended the long-range tests, during the period in which the leader Kim Jong-un participated in high-level negotiations with the then President of the United States, Donald Trump. Attempts at dialogue foundered in 2019, however, and have been stalled ever since.
Last week, South Korea reported a failed test at the same airport in Pyongyang: the projectile had exploded in the capital’s sky. Analysts claimed it was the Hwasong-17.
KCNA indicated that the most recent test demonstrated that the weapon meets “design requirements” and can be used “in times of war”.
“This test appears to ‘make up’ for last week’s failed launch,” said AFP Soo Kim, an analyst at the Rand Corporation and former employee of the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).
“The regime seems quite satisfied with the result,” he added.
The advances come on the eve of the 110th anniversary of the birth of Kim Il-sung, founder of North Korea and grandfather of the current leader, on April 15. The regime often uses this type of date to demonstrate its military capability.
They also come at a time of international and regional instability, a consequence of the conflict in Ukraine and the transition period in South Korea until the inauguration of newly elected President Yoon Suk-yeol in May.