North Korea claimed to have successfully test launched an intermediate range ballistic missile – the Hwasong-12 – during the early hours of Sunday morning, an article released by state media said on Monday morning.
Confirmation of the test, which followed multiple government responses to initial news of Sunday’s test, came with technical details in the Korea Central News Agency (KCNA) dispatch that said the launch was carried out at the “highest angle” and was aimed at assessing the “tactical and technological specifications” of the missile.
“The rocket accurately hit the targeted open waters 787km away after flying to the maximum altitude of 2 111.5km along its planned flight orbit,” the report said of the range and apogee of the test firing.
The test assessed the “guidance and stabilization systems, structural system and pressurization, inspection and launching systems”, the report added, as well as “the reliability of new rocket engine under the practical flight circumstances.”
DPRK state media is yet to release any imagery of the new missile.
One expert familiar with North Korea’s missile programs said the Hwasong-12 designation was new and that the test could represent a significant step forward for the country’s ballistic missile program.
“This press release looks like it is designed to show off (the new missiles’) precision,” said Scott Lafoy, a Washington D.C.-based analyst for NK Pro. “It gives very specific times, apogee, and range, implying that they can very accurately track and measure everything in their test range.”
“They specifically emphasize testing under “worst-case” conditions, which is meant to imply they have developed the reentry shields necessary for IRBM and long-range systems.”
Stressing that it is difficult to confirm without imagery, Dave Schmerler, a Research Associate, at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies, said the new designation of “Hwasong-12” meant it was difficult to tell precisely what has been tested.
“Well we know the Hwasong-13 is the KN-08 from the parades so this isn’t the KN-08 or 14,” he said. “Unless they decided to scrap the naming convention like how they did with the serial numbers on the missiles we observed during this year’s parade.”
Another expert said the test had “very serious implications,” adding that the missile launched was likely a multiple stage, liquid propelled, intermediate-range ballistic missile (IRBM) and was one of the newly-developed devices on display in last month’s military parade in Pyongyang.
“According to DPRK state media, the missile was launched to an ultra-high altitude of 2111 kilometers, and the distance of which the missile hit the sea was 787 km,” said Tal Inbar, head of the Space & UAV center at the Fisher Institute for Air and Space Strategic Studies, Israel.
“The meaning of this is simple – North Korea has managed to test the missile to the maximum burn time of the engines – without overfly of Japan. The HS-10 test was conducted on the same manner on 2016.”
The missile has the potential to travel up to a range of at least 4500 km, when fired on “a more realistic, operational, shallow trajectory”, he added.
“It is a stepping stone in North Korean ambitions to acquire an ever longer range missile. An ICBM? No. but they are getting very close.”
North Korea fired a ballistic missile from Kusong City on Sunday at 05.27am (KST), in what is its first missile test since the inauguration of South Korean President Moon Jae-in last week and its seventh this year.
The test was widely condemned by the international community, with the White House calling North Korea “a flagrant menace” and saying the test be met with stronger sanctions.
One sanctions specialist said that he hoped the test would spur the United States and its allies to impose secondary sanctions on China.
“Pyongyang’s missile test demonstrated the ability to target Guam, and Washington should respond by sanctioning Chinese companies and banks that aid North Korea’s sanctions evasion,” Anthony Ruggiero, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD), told NK News.
“Robust sanctions against North Korea’s international business and those that support them are the only way to reduce and eliminate Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons and missile programs.”
Featured image: Rodong Sinmun
Dagyum Ji and Chad O’Carroll contributed to this report