The North Korean regime said on Wednesday that the new intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) it launched on Tuesday can carry a large nuclear warhead, state news agency KCNA said.
“The test-launch was aimed to confirm the tactical and technological specifications and technological features of the newly developed ICBM rocket capable of carrying a large-sized heavy nuclear warhead,” Efe news quoted a KCNA statement as saying.
The note said North Korean leader Kim Jong-un described the missile launched on July 4 as “a package of gifts…on its Independence Day” for the Americans. Pyongyang announced on Tuesday through its state television that it had successfully tested, for the first time, an ICBM “capable of hitting any target in the world”.
KCNA said it was a new missile named Hwasong-14, which reached a maximum height of 2,802 km and travelled 933 km in 39 minutes. This new test marks a breakthrough in the Kim Jong-un regime’s weapons programs, and once again has been condemned by the international community.
South Korea and the US, for their part, also carried out their own missile tests on Wednesday as a response. The KCNA statement said Wednesday that North Korea’s weapons test was used to “verify all technical features of the payload of the rocket during its atmospheric re-entry including the heat-resisting features and structural safety of the warhead tip of the ICBM made of newly developed domestic carbon compound material.”
It also added that “the inner temperature of the warhead tip was maintained at 25 to 45 degrees Celsius” at the time of re-entry and that all other devices successfully worked before the warhead accurately hit the simulated target. Atmospheric re-entry technology was essential to enable the tip of the missile – into which an explosive unit such as an atomic bomb was installed – to resist the vibration as well as the heat of the terminal flight phase before hitting the target.
South Korean Defence Minister Han Min-koo confirmed on Wednesday that North Korea’s missile launched on Tuesday was an ICBM that could reach American soil. However, the data analyzed did not confirm that the missile had the capacity to re-enter the Earth’s atmosphere correctly, a key element in the effectiveness of this type of weaponry.
Han noted that it still could not be concluded that North Korea has successfully developed an ICBM, since the launch was carried out from a fixed platform and that the correct re-entry in the atmosphere of the missile “has not been confirmed.” In addition, he admitted that Pyongyang’s ability to miniaturize nuclear warheads and equip them to missiles has reached a considerable level and that there was a high probability that the regime would soon conduct a new nuclear test.