Celebrating becoming a nuclear state with fireworks and street parties.
- North Korea ramps up tension with USA as missile lands in Japanese waters
- US says missile launch longest-range yet, poses global threat
- Experts warn latest test reveals North Korean missiles capable of reaching Australia, US and Europe
Thousands of North Korean soldiers took part in a celebratory rally yesterday after Kim Jong-un declared the Stalinist regime a nuclear power.
Troops cheered and laughed as a huge firework display lit up Kim Il-Sung Square in Pyongyang following the successful test of the Hwasong-15 intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) on Tuesday.
State media reported that Kim had declared the country had achieved the “historic cause” of becoming a nuclear state on November 29.
He bragged that his country has achieved full nuclear statehood after successfully testing a missile capable of hitting almost anywhere in the world.
The country ended a 10-week respite in its weapons testing when it fired off the rocket – its most powerful ICBM yet, which the regime claimed could be fitted with a “super heavy nuclear warhead”.
After watching the launch, Kim boasted about its success, according to state television presenter Ri Chun-Hee.
“Kim Jong-un declared with pride that now we have finally realised the great historic cause of completing the state nuclear force, the cause of building a rocket power,” the presenter said.
“The great success in the test-fire of ICBM Hwasong-15 is a priceless victory won by the great and heroic people of the DPRK,” she added, using the abbreviated name for North Korea.
The Pentagon said the test missile travelled about 620 miles and landed within 200 nautical miles of Japan’s coast.
In a broadcast on state TV, North Korea said the missile reached an altitude of around 2,780 miles – more than 10 times the height of the international space station – and flew 600 miles during its 53-minute flight.
North Korea deliberately fires its missile on a near-vertical trajectory to artificially limit the range.
If the Hwasong-15 had been fired on a typical trajectory, analysts believe it would have a maximum range of around 8,000 miles (13,000km) – leaving only South America and a small part of Africa beyond its reach.
CNN reported that photos of the Hwasong-15 released on Thursday by North Korean state media showed a large, tall missile that appears to be significantly wider than the Hwasong-14, previously Pyongyang’s most-advanced missile, which was launched over Japan twice in July.
Experts have been analysing and studying the images of Korea’s new weapon since their release
Really big missile
“This isn’t just a big missile for North Korea this is a big missile in general,” Michael Duitsman, research associate at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies (CNS), told CNN. “There are not a lot of countries who could build a missile this big and have it work.”
Brand new engine system
The Hwasong-14, previously North Korea’s most advanced ICBM, uses one primary engine with four steering thrusters to guide the missile where it needs to go.
Tuesday’s launch, however, appeared to use two engines, without any supplementary thrusters.
“This is certainly a big adjustment,” said David Schmerler, another research associate at CNS. “It means they’ve probably gimbaled the engines…something we’ve never seen the North Koreans do.”
In a gimbaled system, rather than having fins or thrusters guide the rocket, the exhaust nozzle of the engine itself can be moved from side to side, adjusting its course.
Schmerler said that while all countries draw on foreign designs for their weapons systems to some extent, and learn from what competitors and allies do, this would represent a major advance for the domestic North Korean missile program.
“They’re looking at the rest of the world and seeing what works and what doesn’t and applying this to their own programme,” he said.