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By Ryan Pickrell
Pyongyang claims it successfully tested a new ballistic missile Sunday, signaling another advancement in North Korean ballistic missile technology.
The missile North Korea tested early Sunday morning under the direct supervision of Kim Jong-un was a new medium-to-long-range missile that the North refers to as Pukguksong-2. The weapon is designed to carry a nuclear payload.
The South Korean military initially suspected that the missile might have been a Musudan intermediate-range ballistic missile. South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff later reported that the missile was likely a mid-range or modified Rodong missile. U.S. Strategic Command claimed North Korea’s missile was either a a medium- or intermediate-range ballistic missile. Defense officials did, however, accept the possibility that the North may have tested a new weapon.
The Pukguksong-2 bears the name of the submarine-launched ballistic missile (Pukguksong-1 or KN-11) North Korea tested in August 2016. North Korea’s new missile appears to be a modified, land-based version of the KN-11, which indicates the North’s capabilities have improved. The KN-11 uses solid rather than liquid fuel, which significantly reduces preparation time before launch and gives the weapon greater range, making it more threatening. North Korea reports that its new ballistic missile is a solid-fueled projectile weapon like the Pukguksong-1.
The trajectory of the ballistic missile tested Sunday was similar to that of North Korea’s KN-11 submarine-launched ballistic missile, Jeffrey Lewis, director of the East Asia Nonproliferation Program for the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, suggests. Both missiles were intentionally fired high and soared to altitudes around 310 miles during their respective tests. Launched under normal combat circumstances, North Korea’s new ballistic missile might have a range of about 745 miles, possibly farther.
Sunday’s missile test was the first such test of the new U.S. administration and a sign that the North Korean threat is growing more serious with each passing day.
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