On Saturday 10 October, North Korea celebrated the 75th anniversary of the Workers’ Party with a major pre-dawn military parade. As usual, this parade functioned as a demonstration of North Korean military might, with tanks, jet planes, and soldiers featuring prominently. However, it was the presence of a new, previously-unknown missile that has international analysts concerned.
In a New Year’s speech at the beginning of the year, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un announced his nation would continue with their nuclear programme, as well as unveiling a brand-new strategic weapon in the near future. As Saturday’s parade came to an end, it appeared that Kim’s “strategic weapon” was revealed – a massive intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), wheeled out on an 11-axle truck. It is believed to be the largest road-mobile liquid-fuelled ICBM to ever be developed, according to Ankit Panda, senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace’s Nuclear Policy Program. Harry Kazianis, senior director of Korean studies at the Center for National Interest, also drew attention to the missile: “What North Korea has shown us, what appears to be a new liquid-fuelled ICBM that seems to be a derivative of what was tested back in late 2017, known as the Hwasong-15, is much bigger and clearly more powerful than anything in the DPRK’s arsenal.”
Other analysts have noted that this new missile may be capable of carrying MIRV (multiple independently targetable re-entry vehicle) payloads. North Korean possession of a MIRV weapon means serious advances in their missile technology. Where a ‘traditional’ missile – one launch vehicle, equipped with a single warhead – is able to strike one target, a MIRV missile carries multiple warheads and thus can strike numerous targets from a single launch. When North Korea originally unveiled the Hwasong-15, analysts assumed that the missile would be able to reach much of the American mainland. This new missile, with its potential MIRV capabilities, would mean a serious increase in range and targeting for the North Korean nuclear arsenal.
The unveiling of the new missile comes after a breakdown in United States/North Korea denuclearisation talks. Over the course of his term, U.S. President Donald Trump consistently tried to engage with North Korean leadership to denuclearise the Korean Peninsula, going so far as hold an historic meeting with Kim Jong Un. However, Trump’s efforts have been met with little progress; the main impact was that North Korea halted its long-range missile tests, but continued with short-range testing. Trump’s meetings with Kim were met with more concern than praise, as nuclear negotiators and North Korea experts felt Trump’s meetings legitimised the regime and its nuclear programme. These experts may have been proven correct; the revelation of a brand-new missile indicates that no expense has been spared on the North Korean nuclear arsenal.
It is now more crucial than ever that international pressure be directed towards North Korea. This missile, larger than any of its kind produced during the Cold War, should worry international leaders. The development of newer, larger missiles by the North Korean regime bodes poorly for global peace. Peaceful solutions, and the denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula, must become a priority for the international community.
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