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[ANALYSIS] North Korea's latest weapons test aims to undermine kill chain system
更新时间:2024-05-20 07:19:55
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This <strong></strong>photo released Friday by the official Korean Central News Agency shows a high-thrust solid-fuel motor test to develop a new weapon at the Sohae Satellite Launching Ground in Tongchang-ri, North Korea, Thursday. Yonhap
This photo released Friday by the official Korean Central News Agency shows a high-thrust solid-fuel motor test to develop a new weapon at the Sohae Satellite Launching Ground in Tongchang-ri, North Korea, Thursday. Yonhap

Harder-to-detect solid-fuel ICBMs are threat to anti-missile system: experts

By Jung Min-ho

North Korea has tested a high-thrust solid-fuel motor that analysts say could allow quicker and harder-to-detect launches of intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) with the apparent aim of undermining ― and ultimately incapacitating ― South Korea and the U.S.' anti-missile system.

The missile engine test, which was conducted Thursday under the supervision of leader Kim Jong-un, provided a "scientific and technological guarantee for the development of another new type strategic weapon system," the official Korean Central News Agency claimed Friday.

Kim praised the success of the test, saying he expects a new strategic weapon to be built "in the shortest span of time," the broadcaster reported.

Experts believe he was likely referring to a solid-fuel ICBM, which he vowed to develop at a major ruling Workers' Party conference in 2021. The ICBM type that requires a shorter time to launch will challenge South Korea and the U.S.' joint missile defense system, or kill chain, a preemptive strike system that relies on the ability to detect imminent attacks from the North.

NK continues to develop military capabilities that pose threat to U.S. and allies: KirbyNK continues to develop military capabilities that pose threat to U.S. and allies: Kirby 2022-12-17 09:11  |  North Korea N. Korea seems to be prepping military parade in Pyongyang: Seoul official N. Korea seems to be prepping military parade in Pyongyang: Seoul official 2022-12-16 16:00  |  North Korea
"Solid fuel offers greater mobility for missiles and reduces launch preparation time. It is also cheaper to produce and, in general, more reliable," Yang Uk, an associate research fellow at the Asan Institute for Policy Studies, a think tank, said. "With legitimate concern over the kill chain system, it needs to continue to be improved in cooperation with the U.S."

The South Korean and U.S. militaries have been able to detect North Korea's attempts to launch an ICBM in advance by observing signs, such as military vehicles and personnel handling liquid fuel. The solid-fuel type can be fueled and remain in storage for a longer period with fewer concerns over corrosion caused by the propellant, and be fired more reliably if needed.

North Korea has already developed solid-fuel tactical ballistic missiles such as the KN-23, KN-24 and KN-25 ― weapons that can strike much of South Korea, but not Guam or Japan from which the U.S.' key strategic assets would come to assist in the case of armed conflict in Korea.

This photo released Friday by the official Korean Central News Agency shows a high-thrust solid-fuel motor test to develop a new weapon at the Sohae Satellite Launching Ground in Tongchang-ri, North Korea, Thursday. Yonhap
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un smiles after the successful missile engine test at the Sohae Satellite Launching Ground in Tongchang-ri, North Korea, Thursday. Yonhap

Pyongyang's latest weapons test shows that it is diversifying its military strategies as it seeks to make it more challenging for Seoul and Washing to prepare for potential attacks. It is also possible that North Korea has been motivated by South Korea's efforts to secure capabilities to independently launch and run military satellites by 2025, Hong Min, a senior researcher at the Korea Institute for National Unification, said.

"North Korea is expected to continue to diversify the means of delivering its nuclear weapons as it seeks to advance its nuclear strategy," he said. "The latest test appears to be part of that process."

Another area North Korea is focusing on is its submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) technology. Two months ago, the North claimed to have launched an SLBM from a reservoir. For many years, it has been working on acquiring the ability to fire nuclear-armed missiles from its submarines, which could further complicate the South Korea-U.S. defense strategy. As part of its effort, North Korea reportedly completed a new 3,000-ton submarine capable of carrying three SLBMs.

This year, North Korea has conducted an unprecedented wave of weapons tests, launching dozens of missiles, including ICBMs, amid increasing concerns that it might be on the verge of carrying out a nuclear test.

Due to the absence of diplomatic, political and technical benefits it would get from conducting a nuclear test, North Korea is unlikely to do so in the near future, Hong said.

"It would be damaging for its ties with China and Russia, which North Korea has been working hard to strengthen," Hong said. "I believe North Korea is more likely to focus on developing delivery means for nuclear weapons while giving signs that it may be ready for a nuclear test to pressure South Korea and the U.S."




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