Confirming Hwasong-18 ICBM launch, N. Korea says it was “drill,” not “test”

Posted on : 2023-12-20 17:21 KST Modified on : 2023-12-20 17:21 KST
Experts say there’s an increasing likelihood that the Hwasong-18 will be deployed for action
This photo, released by North Korean state media, shows North Korean leader Kim Jong-un joined by his daughter, Kim Ju-ae, as he watches the launch of the Hwasong-18 solid-fuel ICBM on Dec. 18. (KCNA/Yonhap)
This photo, released by North Korean state media, shows North Korean leader Kim Jong-un joined by his daughter, Kim Ju-ae, as he watches the launch of the Hwasong-18 solid-fuel ICBM on Dec. 18. (KCNA/Yonhap)

North Korea confirmed Tuesday that the solid-fuel intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) that it launched the previous day was a Hwasong-18.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un remarked that the North needs to “strongly counter” the US “with more offensive actions.”

“The missile traveled up to a maximum altitude of 6,518.2 km and flew a distance of 1,002.3 km for 4,415s before accurately landing on the preset area in the open waters off the East Sea of Korea,” North Korea’s state-run Korean Central News Agency reported Tuesday.

The same day, the Rodong Sinmun ran a front-page article under the following headline: “Clear Display of DPRK Strategic Forces’ Toughest Retaliation Will and Overwhelming Strength, Launch Drill of ICBM Hwasongpho-18 Conducted.”

Following previous launches in April and July, this is the third time that North Korea has confirmed a launch of its Hwasong-18 missile. Including the Hwasong-15 and Hwasong-17 liquid-fuel ICBMs that were tested with launches in February and March, North Korea has launched a total of five ICBMs this year.

North Korean media also ran remarks by Kim Jong-un that amounted to a warning for the US.

The KCNA reported that Kim described the launch test he’d attended as “an occasion to clearly show what action the DPRK has [. . .] prepared and what option the DPRK would take when Washington makes a wrong decision against it.” According to the outlet, Kim also said North Korea needs “to strongly counter” its enemies with “more offensive actions by adopting a more evolutionary and threatening way when [they] continue to make [the] wrong choice.”

South Korea and the US decided during a meeting of their Nuclear Consultative Group on Friday to hold nuclear operation drills in August 2024.

Experts say there’s an increasing likelihood that the Hwasong-18 will be deployed for action.

North Korean media described this launch as a “launch drill,” contrasting with the term “test launch” used to describe launches in April and July.

“This launch appears to be in the stage of making and running the protocol for actual use [of the missile]. Going forward, it will begin the process of deploying the missile for active duty and take more concrete steps [to build] a mass production system,” said Hong Min, the director of the North Korean Research Division at the Korea Institute for National Unification.

By Jang Ye-ji, staff reporter

Please direct questions or comments to [english@hani.co.kr]

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