About the Author
Dagyum Ji is a senior NK News correspondent based in Seoul. She previously worked for Reuters TV.
Update 1: this article was updated at 12:25 KST to include the text from KCNA’s official English translation
Update 2: this article was updated at 14:40 KST to include comments from South Korean experts
North Korea’s newly developed intercontinental ballistic missile can carry large-sized and heavy nuclear warheads, the state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported on Wednesday.
According to KCNA, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un had visited and supervised the site where the scientists and engineers had been preparing for the launch of the ICBM “over several days.”
“The test-launch was aimed to confirm the tactical and technological specifications and technological features of the newly developed inter-continental ballistic rocket capable of carrying large-sized heavy nuclear warhead,” KCNA said in an English-language dispatch.
“[The test-launch also aimed to] verify all technical features of the payload of the rocket during its atmospheric reentry including the heat-resisting features and structural safety of the warhead tip of ICBM made of newly developed domestic carbon compound material, in particular.”
Pyongyang announced on Tuesday afternoon that the country had successfully test-launched an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) at 09:00 local time.
The ICBM, which North Korea has named the “Hwasong-14”, flew 933 km at a maximum altitude of 2802 km for 39 minutes and was launched at a lofted trajectory from the DPRK’s northwest, Pyongyang reported. It then fell into a targeted point in the Sea of Japan (also known as the East Sea).
The leader had personally made the “crucial decision to strike the… arrogant U.S. face” on July 4, KCNA said.
“[Kim Jong Un] with a broad smile on his face, told officials, scientists and technicians that the U.S. would be displeased to witness the DPRK’s strategic option as it was given a ‘package of gifts’ incurring its disfavor by the DPRK on its ‘Independence Day’,” KCNA said.
Kim called on his scientists and technicians “to frequently send big and small ‘gift packages’ to the Yankees as ever so that they would not feel weary.”
The North had reconfirmed the “starting and stopping feature of the first-stage high-thrust engine” and confirmed the “working feature of the newly developed second-stage engine with high thrust under actual flying conditions.”
KCNA also said in a Korean dispatch that Pyongyang had checked the “operational accuracy and credibility of the newly designed stage separation system”, and had reconfirmed the “the attitude control features” of the heavy warhead after its separation from the missile.
“It also confirmed the homing feature and structural safety of [the warhead] under the harshest re-entry environment,” KCNA said.
The DPRK also said that the inner temperature of the warhead had been “stably maintained” between 25 and 45 degrees centigrade “despite the harsh atmospheric reentry conditions of having to face the heat reaching thousands of degrees centigrade, extreme overload and vibration” during the process of re-entering the atmosphere.
KCNA also reported that the control device used to detonate the nuclear warhead had “successfully worked” and that it had “accurately hit the targeted waters without any structural breakdown at the end of its flight.”
Kim said Pyongyang would not put the issue of its nuclear and missile programs on the “negotiation table” unless “the U.S. hostile policy and nuclear threat to the DPRK are definitely terminated.”
“[He] said strongly that [the North] would not step back even one step from the path we have chosen to strengthen the nuclear-armed forces.”
South Korean experts told NK News that Pyongyang had likely manufactured the Hwasong-14 by adding one stage to the Hwasong-12 rocket, which was described as “ground-to-ground medium long-range strategic ballistic rocket” by North’s state-run media and launched on May 14.
Kim Dong-yub, a Professor at the Institute for Far Eastern Studies at Kyungnam University said that the two rockets look “similar”.
“We should precisely examine the diameter, but the engines of the first stage propulsion look identical,” Kim said. “Both are composed of one main engine and four vernier thrusters. This appears to be the high-thrust missile engine whose thrust is around 100-ton force and which was tested last March.”
“It is completely distinguished from KN-08 or KN-14 which clusters several existing engines.”
Another identified the Transporter Erector Launcher (TEL) North Korea had used in the launch.
“The road-mobile TEL is China’s WS51200 which can also transport KN-08 and KN-14,” Kim Min-seok, a senior researcher at the Korea Defense and Security Forum (KODEF), told NK News.
“When considering the length of the vehicle, it is estimated the length of Hwasong-14 is around 20m, which is longer that we thought.”
Edited by Oliver Hotham
Featured Image: KCNA