The Japan News by The Yomiuri Shimbun

N. Korea seen rushing to develop ICBM able to reach U.S. mainland

- By Takayuki Nakagawa Yomiuri Shimbun Correspond­ent

SEOUL — North Korea’s latest interconti­nental ballistic missile test appears to have ended in failure on Nov. 3, but it was a clear sign that Pyongyang is expediting efforts to develop ICBMs. e launch of what appeared to be a Hwasong-17 missile marks an escalation in North Korea’s military provocatio­ns, which it claims are retaliatio­n for military drills being conducted jointly by South Korea and the United States.

Pyongyang’s ICBM developmen­t program is also believed to be aimed at bringing the U.S. mainland within the range of its missiles.

According to South Korean military sources, North Korea launched an ICBM in a lo ed trajectory from the Sunan area of Pyongyang on the morning of Nov. 3. However, a malfunctio­n occurred while the missile was ascending.

The fuel tank and engine separated from the three-stage missile during ascension, but it appears there was a problem with the ight of the missile a er the second-stage separation. e U.S. and South Korean militaries believe the missile “failed” mid- ight.

The Hwasong-17 was rst shown to the public during a military parade in October 2020. North Korean leader Kim Jong Un announced a ve-year plan to develop the nation’s military capabiliti­es at a congress of the Workers' Party of Korea in January 2021.

Kim called for the developmen­t of an improved ICBM with a range of 15,000 kilometers, which would be capable of striking anywhere on the U.S. mainland.

The Hwasong-17, which is thought to be capable of reaching Washington D.C., could give North Korea leverage over the United States, but it appears the developmen­t of the missile is not progressin­g smoothly.

North Korea launched what appeared to be a Hwasong-17 from Sunan on March 16, but the missile exploded at an altitude of about 20 kilometers.

A missile red on a lo ed trajectory on March 24 reached a maximum altitude of about 6,000 kilometers. The ICBM launched Nov. 3 only reached 1,920 kilometers.

“The Hwasong-17 de nitely has a problem with its propulsion,” according to a source familiar with North Korean military technology. "The engine design will need to be changed."


The Nov.3 launch was North Korea's seventh of an ICBM-class missile this year. It appears Pyongyang is stepping up e orts to improve the capabiliti­es of its missiles in a bid to achieve the objectives Kim laid out.

In addition to improving the engine, North Korea will also likely try to re ne the technologi­es needed to achieve the di cult task of enabling a warhead to safely reenter the Earth’s atmosphere.

U.S. military experts do not believe Pyongyang’s ICBMs pose a threat to the U.S. mainland as North Korea has so far failed to demonstrat­e that it has the technology to achieve a successful reentry of a warhead red on a normal trajectory.

South Korean military sources said they think North Korea will continue re ning the capabiliti­es of its ICBMs through lo ed trajectory launches and then push ahead with a test on a regular trajectory.


North Korea appears to be ratcheting up tensions in the region while the United States and South Korea are heightenin­g vigilance against Pyongyang’s provocatio­ns.

At about 2 p.m. on Nov. 3, hours after the North Korean missile launch, the U.S. and South Korean militaries announced an extension to the ongoing Vigilant Storm joint military exercises.

Just a er 8:30 p.m., Pak Jong Chon, a former chief of the General Sta of the Korean People’s Army and a secretary of the Central Committee of the Workers’ Party, denounced the decision in a statement carried by the North Korea’s o cial Korean Central News Agency.

“It is a very dangerous and false choice,” Pak warned, adding that the United States and South Korea “will get to know what an irrevocabl­e and awful mistake they made.”

At about 9:35 p.m., North Korea red three short-range ballistic missiles in quick succession from North Hwanghae Province into the Sea of Japan.

Some observers believe North Korea will continue its military provocatio­ns and push ahead with preparatio­ns for a seventh nuclear test. (Nov. 5)

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