North Korea’s Kim Jong Un Unveils Missile Capable of Targeting US Bases

North Korea’s leader supervised the test of a new ballistic missile designed to deploy a hypersonic glide vehicle that can deliver a nuclear payload. His propaganda apparatus on Wednesday lauded the launch of the missile, which it said was intermediate-range—meaning it could hit US military bases in the region. It also touted that it is solid fuel, which allows it to change course and speed quickly, making it harder for interceptors to shoot down.

The KCNA report praised the Hwasong-16B as an “epoch-making success” and a vital component of the country’s strategic weapons system. It added that the North now has a complete system of missiles with maneuvering reentry vehicles that can carry nuclear warheads and alter their flight paths to avoid defense systems. However, it’s unclear whether the glide vehicles can evade the missile defenses used by the United States and its allies in the region.

It’s also unclear if the new missile is ready for deployment. Experts say the North probably needs to do more testing before it can use it to strike targets far from Pyongyang. It also may need to make significant modifications to its nuclear warheads, which would require another round of tests to ensure the nuclear devices are safe and reliable.

North Korea is stepping up its missile tests this year as it works through a list of items laid out last year by Kim. He vowed to develop ICBMs that can reach the US mainland and the Pacific territory of Guam. Experts believe the North is still working toward those goals despite a recent easing of tensions.

Earlier this month, South Korean officials spotted a missile launched from near the capital toward its eastern waters. The Joint Chiefs of Staff later announced that the missile was a Hwasong-16B.

South Korea analyst Chang Young-keun at the Institute of National Strategy in Seoul says the missile flew for more than 1,000 kilometers and was a good indicator of the North’s progress with its ICBM ambitions. The North has tested several other types of ICBMs that still need to be ready for deployment.

One of those was the Hwasong-12, which North Korea says is capable of reaching the US territory of Alaska with a warhead. However, analysts say that’s unlikely because it lacks a maneuvering reentry vehicle.

Lewis of Click Here believes the KCNA report’s claims about the new missile were exaggerated. He explains that the video shows a mobile missile truck on a tarmac tilted at an odd angle. But if you look at the truck closely enough, a white spot on the road looks just like the missile standing up on its end in the North’s picture.

North Korea may eventually switch to exclusively building solid-fuel missiles, but that would play out over the years and wouldn’t help it immediately build an ICBM capable of striking the mainland or Guam, according to Ankit Panda at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

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