North Korea disclosed on Sunday, February 19, 2023 that its latest intercontinental ballistic missile(ICBM) test was meant to further bolster its “fatal” nuclear attack capacity against its rivals, as it threatened additional powerful steps in response to the planned military training between the United States and South Korea.
Saturday’s ICBM test signals that North Korean leader, Kim Jong Un is using his rivals’ drills as a chance to expand his country’s nuclear capability to enhance its leverage in future dealings with the United States. An expert says North Korea may seek to hold regular operational exercises involving its ICBMs.
North Korea’s official news agency said that the launch of the existing Hwasong-15 ICBM was organized “suddenly” without prior notice at Kim’s direct order.
The news agency added that the launch was designed to verify the weapon’s reliability and the combat readiness of the country’s nuclear force. It said the missile was fired at a high angle and reached a maximum altitude of about 5,770 kilometers (3,585 miles), flying a distance of about 990 kilometers (615 miles) during a 67-minute flight before accurately hitting a pre-set area in the waters between the Korean Peninsula and Japan.
The steep-angle launch was apparently aimed at avoiding neighboring countries. The flight details reported by North Korea, which roughly matched the launch information previously assessed by its neighbors, show the weapon is theoretically capable of reaching the mainland U.S. if fired at a standard trajectory.
The Hwasong-15 launch demonstrated the North’s “powerful physical nuclear deterrent” and its efforts to “turn its capacity of fatal nuclear counterattack on the hostile forces” into an extremely strong one that cannot be countered, North Korea’s news agency disclosed.
The Hwasong-15 is one of North Korea’s three existing ICBMs, all of which use liquid propellants that require pre-launch injections and cannot remain fueled for extended periods. The North is pushing to build a solid-fueled ICBM, which would be more mobile and harder-to-detect before its launch.
Chang Young-keun, a missile expert at Korea Aerospace University in South Korea, said that North Korea appeared to have launched an upgraded version of the Hwasong-15 ICBM. Chang said the information provided by North Korea showed the missile will likely have a longer potential range than the standard Hwasong-15.
The North’s missile launch came a day after it vowed an “unprecedentedly” strong response over a series of military drills that Seoul and Washington plan to hold in coming weeks.
Kim’s Sister Accuses South Korea And U.S
In a separate statement on Sunday, February 19, 2023, Kim Yo Jong, the prominent sister of North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong Un, accused South Korea and the United States of “openly showing their dangerous greed and attempt to gain the military upper hand and predominant position in the Korean Peninsula.”
“I warn that we will watch every movement of the enemy and take corresponding and very powerful and overwhelming counteraction against its every move hostile to us.” Kim Yo Jong
North Korea has steadfastly slammed regular South Korea-U.S. military trainings as an invasion rehearsal though the allies say their exercises are defensive in nature.
Soo Kim, a security analyst at the California-based RAND Corporation, opined, “By now, we know that any action taken by the U.S. and South Korea, however justified from the vantage point of defense and deterrence against (North Korea’s) reckless behavior, will be construed and protested as an act of hostility by North Korea.”
“There will always be fodder for (Kim Jong Un’s) weapons provocations.” Soo Kim added.
U.S. National Security Council Spokesperson, Adrienne Watson said the U.S. will take all necessary measures to ensure the security of the American homeland and South Korea and Japan.