Exploring North Korea’s Hwasong-18 ICBM Test Results

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On Tuesday, North Korea announced that it conducted a test of its newest intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) on Monday, with leader Kim Jong Un overseeing the launch near the capital, Pyongyang. The missile, identified as the Hwasong-18, reached an altitude of 6,518 km (4,050 miles), covered a distance of 1,002 km, and precisely hit its intended target—a vacant area of the sea, according to state media.

Kim Jong Un asserted that the test conveyed a “clear signal to the hostile forces” amid escalating U.S. hostility, describing it as a response to what North Korea perceives as provocative military actions by the United States and its allies. He emphasized the demonstration as a showcase of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s (DPRK) determination for robust counteraction and its formidable strength.

The North Korean leader outlined new tasks aimed at accelerating the development of the DPRK’s nuclear strategic forces, as reported by the state news agency KCNA, without providing specific details. In response to the launch, South Korea, Japan, and the United States condemned it as a blatant violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions.

Simultaneously, China, a permanent member of the Security Council that has previously sanctioned North Korea, held a high-level meeting with North Korean officials in Beijing. State media from both countries characterized the discussions as cooperative and conducted in a “friendly atmosphere.”

In reaction to the missile test, South Korea, Japan, and the United States activated a real-time missile data sharing system and announced a multi-year trilateral military exercise plan. Additionally, a video conference among national security officials addressed efforts to curb North Korea’s alleged illicit cyber activities, potentially funding its weapons programs.

South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol, known for a firm stance against Pyongyang, warned that provocative actions by the North would only bring greater pain to the regime. The U.N. Security Council is scheduled to convene to discuss the recent developments, following a request from the United States and other concerned nations.

This comes after North Korea, on the preceding day, condemned what it viewed as U.S. military provocations, including the deployment of an aircraft carrier and a nuclear-powered submarine in South Korea, characterizing them as aggressive moves. The North responded by launching a short-range ballistic missile into the sea off its east coast.

North Korea identified Monday’s missile, Hwasong-18, as a solid-fuel ICBM, launching it in a sharply lofted trajectory, with the projectile landing in the sea west of Japan’s Hokkaido island. Photos released by North Korea’s state media depicted the missile taking off from a snow-covered field, leaving behind a plume of smoke.

Analysts noted that North Korea’s characterization of the launch as a “launching drill” marked a departure from previous terminologies, indicating a shift from developmental testing to evaluating counteraction capabilities. The missile’s lofted trajectory and a flight time of 74 minutes align with an operational range of up to 15,000 km (9,300 miles) if launched on a flatter, standard trajectory, potentially putting the entire mainland United States within reach, according to Japanese defense officials.

In its criticism, North Korea also targeted a recent high-level meeting between U.S. and South Korean officials, where responses to nuclear threats and joint military exercises were discussed. The U.S. continued to demonstrate a confrontational stance by deploying nuclear-powered submarines, strategic bombers, and an aircraft carrier near the Korean peninsula, according to North Korea. The U.S. nuclear-powered attack submarine USS Missouri arrived in the South Korean port of Busan on Sunday, reinforcing defense readiness in line with the pact between Washington and Seoul.

The United States and South Korea have heightened joint military drills in response to perceived threats from North Korea, which has conducted various ballistic missile tests and, in November, launched its inaugural military spy satellite. (Reuters report)

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