North Korea unveiled what experts believe to be one of the largest intercontinental ballistic missiles in the world on Saturday. Whether it works or not, well, I’m sure officials there would rather nobody worry about that just yet. Just know that it’s big and scary and you should totally be impressed by just how big and scary it is. Yeah.
The weapon, which is so damn big it has to be lugged around by an 11-axle truck, was unveiled at a military parade in the capital city of Pyongyang to mark the 75th anniversary of the ruling Workers’ Party, the Wall Street Journal reports. It’s a successor to the Hwasong-15, a missile that in 2017 was proven to have the capacity to reach the U.S. mainland. This new ICBM would presumably boast a similar range, but analysts say it remains unproven whether it’s ready for testing, according to the outlet. So it’s unclear when (or even if) it would be capable of a strike.
However, the new missile’s ridiculous size still poses some alarming implications. A bigger weapon means more room to load it up with deadly warheads, after all.
“The new ICBM in town,” tweeted Melissa Hanham, deputy director of Open Nuclear Network. “Liquid fuel, Huuuuge, capable of carrying MIRV nuclear warheads (if they exist).”
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un officially declared that he was shuttering the country’s nuclear program in 2018, but in showing off flashy new toys like this it’s obvious he’s not done flexing the country’s military power to try to cultivate more clout on the global stage. And of course, he’s hoping to leverage the threat posed by this ICBM in negotiations with the U.S. likely as part of a bid to drive up the cost of relinquishing the country’s arsenal.
“What North Korea has shown us, what appears to be a new liquid-fuelled ICBM that seems to be a derivative of what was tested back in late 2017, known as the Hwasong-15, is much bigger and clearly more powerful than anything in [North Korea’s] arsenal,” said Harry Kazianis, senior director of Korean studies at the public policy think tank Centre for the National Interest, in an interview with CNN.
Officials flaunted other military hardware during Saturday’s procession as well, including additional long-range missiles, upgraded body armour for soldiers, new tanks, and a next-generation submarine missile.
“The parade displayed a diverse range of options that Kim Jong Un could reach for in a crisis,” Adam Mount, a senior fellow at the Federation of American Scientists, told the Journal. “This is not his father’s arsenal.”
North Korea has upheld a moratorium on nuclear tests and ICBM launches for roughly the last three years. However, Kim walked back that promise in a policy speech at the beginning of the year, the Journal reports, and his speech Saturday wasn’t short on militaristic bravado.
“We will continue to strengthen war deterrence as a means of self-defence,” Kim said, per CNN. “Our war deterrence will never be abused or used preemptively, which will contribute to protecting the sovereignty and survival of the country and pursuing regional peace. However, if anyone hurts the national safety or threaten to use military force against us, I will preemptively mobilize all of our strongest offensive forces to punish them.”
The White House expressed disappointment in North Korea parading its new arsenal and called on officials there to renew talks to negotiate the country’s denuclearization.
“It is disappointing to see the DPRK continuing to prioritise its prohibited nuclear and ballistic missile program over working towards a brighter future for the North Korean people,” a senior Trump administration official told Reuters. “The United States… calls on [North Korea] to engage in sustained and substantive negotiations to achieve complete denuclearization.”