South Korean officials said Wednesday that North Korea lied when it said last week it had tested a new intercontinental ballistic missile. According to Seoul, even if the action was real, Pyongyang would have used smaller and older technology than the announced Hwasong-17.
The regime at the time released a Hollywood-style video, in which dictator Kim Jong-un appears in a black jacket and sunglasses accompanying the launch – international commentators compared it to the movie “Top Gun” and K-pop clips.
It was precisely the photos and videos released by North Korean state media after the release that substantiated the South’s allegations. According to a Seoul Defense Ministry official quoted by the Reuters news agency, the shadows and weather seen in the images would suggest they were shot on another day.
By this interpretation, the Kim Jong-un regime would be trying to avoid a negative domestic reaction in relation to a failed launch of the Hwasong-17 carried out on the 16th – according to South Korea, the video would have been recorded on that date, despite Pyongyang has never recognized this test.
A report submitted by the South Korean government to Parliament also points out that the trial would aim to increase North Korea’s military status and improve its bargaining power against Seoul, the United States and the international community. The test took place a few hours before NATO, the western military alliance, met to discuss the war in Ukraine – the meeting was attended by US President Joe Biden.
While the South Koreans are right, the technology tested by Pyongyang is quite powerful. The Hwasong-15 missile, according to US officials, is capable of hitting the US west coast, as well as Pacific territories such as Hawaii and Guam. The technology had already been tested five years ago.
The missile launched last week flew for 67.5 minutes at a range of 1,090 km and a maximum altitude of 6,248.5 km, state media reported. These numbers are similar to data reported by Japan and South Korea and are higher than the first test of the Hwasong-15, which flew for 53 minutes at an altitude of 4,475 km and a range of 950 km.
The reason for the increase in military technology, South Korean officials have suggested, may be that North Korea launched the missile without a significant test payload, which would make it lighter.
According to Vann Van Diepen, a former US government official involved in weapons of mass destruction, a second successful test of the Hwasong-15 would have confirmed its reliability, but if its improved performance is only due to the reduced payload, the meaning would be limited.
The Hwasong-17’s technology, on the other hand, requires a more sophisticated set of four Paektusan-class engines compared to the Hwasong-15’s two.
The latest test is also symbolic: it is the first of its kind since a series that took place five years ago, which forced the then Donald Trump administration to negotiate directly with Kim — the three rounds of direct talks between the two, however, would come to an end. to fail and put on hold negotiations to lift sanctions against Pyongyang over its nuclear program.
In the same vein, state media said after the test that the country was preparing for a long confrontation with what it called American imperialism.
Arms development helps the North Korean regime maintain its image in front of the population, which is suffering from the economic consequences of international sanctions against the country’s military and nuclear program, in addition to the two years of border closures determined by the regime itself due to Covid. -19.