North Korea unveils an array of military might
NORTH Korea’s unprecedented nighttime military parade late on Saturday showcased an unusually broad array of new weapons, from a show- stopping “monster” ballistic missile to previously unseen battle tanks.
The hardware, likely still in varying stages of development, offered leader Kim Jong- un a chance to show the world his cutting- edge military power while adding practical capabilities to North Korea’s already formidable nuclear and conventional forces, experts said.
Kim is walking a fine line, seeking to increase pressure on the US to ease sanctions while not destroying rapport with President Donald Trump or Pyongyang’s partners in China.
“Kim Jong- un’s speech was not threatening to the US, instead labelling North Korea’s nuclear forces as self- defensive,” said Bruce Klingner, a retired CIA North Korea analyst now at the Heritage Foundation. Video from the parade suggested a huge intercontinental ballistic missile ( ICBM) potentially more lethal either because of multiple warheads or a bigger payload, larger missile carriers, a next- generation submarine- launched missile, and advances in conventional weaponry, military analysts said.
The star of Saturday’s show was a massive, previously unseen ICBM carried on an equally huge “transporter- erector- launcher” ( TEL) vehicle with 11 axles. Estimated to be 25 to 26 metres long and 2.5 to 2.9 metres in diameter, the unidentified missile would be the largest road- mobile ICBM in the world, military analysts said.
Given that the Hwasong- 15, the largest missile ever test- flown by North Korea, can already target anywhere in the US, the most likely practical use for the new ICBM would be the ability to carry multiple warheads, said Melissa Hanham, deputy director of the Open Nuclear Network.
It is much cheaper for North Korea to add warheads than for the US to add interceptors, said Jeffrey Lewis, a missile researcher at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies ( CNS).
“If each new North Korean ICBM can carry 3 to 4 warheads, we would need about 12 to 16 interceptors for each missile,” he said on Twitter. “The last time the US bought 14 interceptors, it cost $ 1 billion.”
But, said Kim Dong- yup, a former South Korea Navy officer who is now a professor at Kyungnam University’s Far East Institute in Seoul: “A bigger warhead doesn’t necessarily mean multiple warheads, a technology I believe North Korea has not secured yet.”
Analysts said it was also notable that North Korea appeared to have built the huge new TELS to carry the new missiles. “They have a very limited supply of long TELS they acquired from China,” said another CNS researcher, Dave Schmerler, adding that the lack of vehicles has limited the number of ICBMS that could be deployed. “So the longer TELS we saw were indigenously produced.”
But the massive size of the new missile and its carrier also has drawbacks, said Markus Schiller, a missile expert based in Europe.
“Only special roads and bridges could support this in fuelled condition,” he said.
“No sane person would drive this ticking bomb through the North Korean countryside.”
It would likely take as much as half a day to fuel such a large missile, making it difficult to quickly deploy in a war, meaning the missile’s main purpose is likely a political warning, Schiller said.