North Korea Debuts ICBM Allegedly Capable of Reaching Entire Continental U.S.

A man watches a television news screen showing a picture of North Korea's recent test-firi
JUNG YEON-JE/AFP via Getty , file

North Korean state media confirmed on Thursday that dictator Kim Jong-un had overseen the launch the day before of a new model of intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), branded the “Hwasong-18,” intended to intimidate the United States and South Korea into ceasing their military activities.

“A series of stronger military offensive [sic] will be launched until the U.S. imperialists and the south [sic] Korean puppet traitors admit their shameful defeat,” the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), Pyongyang’s flagship regime media outlet, vowed in its announcement of the Hwasong-18’s allegedly successful launch.

The South Korean news agency Yonhap, citing ballistics experts, reported on Thursday that the missile’s range appears to be capable of targeting “the whole of the U.S. mainland.”

South Korean, Japanese, and American military officials confirmed the launch of a missile that appeared to be an ICBM on Wednesday. According to the Japanese Defense Ministry, the missile flew for a little more than an hour before crashing into Japanese waters near the northernmost island of Hokkaido. The missile launch appeared to be timed to disrupt South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol’s various meetings at the NATO summit in Vilnius, Lithuania. South Korea is not a member of NATO – nor is Japan, whose Prime Minister Kishida Fumio also attended the summit – but maintains a partnership with the military alliance that Yoon expanded through a series of enhanced intelligence-sharing agreements this week.

NATO’s members focused much of the summit on the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine and invited Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to attend. Yoon, however, used the platform to demand greater concern about communist North Korea’s illegal nuclear weapons program, warning that Pyongyang’s ICBM arsenal means that North Korea could likely conduct nuclear strikes on much of Europe if it so desired.

“North Korea’s nuclear missiles are a real threat that can hit not only Vilnius but also Paris, Berlin, and London,” Yoon warned on Wednesday. “We must unite more strongly and condemn and respond with one voice.”

File/In this handout image released by the South Korean Defense Ministry, a U.S. Air Force B-52H strategic bomber (top) flying with South Korean Air Force F-35A fighter jets during a joint air drill on April 14, 2023 at an undisclosed location in South Korea. South Korea and the United States held joint air drills, involving at least one B-52H strategic bomber, a day after North Korea test-fired a new intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM). (South Korean Defense Ministry via Getty Images)

The communist North Korean regime appeared to reinforce those fears with its claims of success in allegedly testing the Hwasong-18 for the first time this week, calling the test “another significant great event” necessary due to a “nuclear crisis” allegedly created solely by the United States. Dictator Kim Jong-un, KCNA claimed, personally guided the test.

“The moment, a grand explosion heralding the entity of the strategic weapon fully loaded with our strength and technology blasted while shaking the whole planet, and a huge body soared into the sky, blowing off a shower of fire,” KCNA narrated, adding that the test “had no negative effect on the security of the neighboring countries.”

Following the test, the North Korean news agency claimed that Kim “said with pleasure that this eventual success which fully demonstrated the might of the DPRK [North Korea] fully equipped with the firm nuclear war deterrence for self-defence.”

“War deterrence” is North Korea’s euphemism for its illegal nuclear weapons program.

Kim also claimed that North Korea would see “no change and vacillation” in working to “steadily accelerate the development of more developed, effective and reliable weapon system.”

Relations with America, KCNA claimed, were “nearing an intolerable critical point” necessitating further nuclear arms development. The United States, it claimed “is openly planning to discuss the use of nuclear weapons against our state” and inching towards “an unprecedented nuclear war.” North Korea has spent much of this week complaining about two specific moves by Washington: the stationing of the USS Michigan, a nuclear-powered submarine, in Busan, South Korea; and allege “aerial espionage” flights into North Korean airspace, which the South Korean government has denied.

Kim said on Wednesday, according to the North Korean state report, that “a series of stronger military offensive will be launched until the U.S. imperialists and the south Korean puppet traitors admit their shameful defeat of their useless hostile policy toward the DPRK in despair and give up their policy.”

Yonhap, the South Korean news organization, claimed the alleged Hwasong-18 “1,001.2 kilometers [about 622 miles] for 4,491 seconds at a maximum altitude of 6,648.4 km [about 4,131 miles], before accurately landing in a pre-set area in the East Sea [Sea of Japan],” describing the journey as a “marked improvement” for North Korean ICBMs. South Korean officials appeared to confirm that the Hwasong-18 was a solid-fuel missile, rather than a liquid-fuel model, which is “harder to detect ahead of launch than liquid-propellant ones, which require more prelaunch preparations, such as the injection of fuel.”

The Hwasong-18 is the successor to the Hwasong-17, which Kim debuted in March 2022 with a photo shoot apparently inspired by the American Top Gun film series, in which the dictator appeared marching in front of the ICBM wearing a black leather jacket and sunglasses. North Korean propagandists used later Hwasong-17 tests to debut Kim’s daughter, believed to be named Kim Ju-ae and be about 13 years old, to the public in late 2022.

An ICBM launch by North Korea is "imminent," South Korean security officials said Wednesday, as U.S. President Joe Biden prepares to visit Seoul this week. Photo by KCNA/UPI | License Photo

Kim Jong-un and soldiers posing in front of the Hwasong-17 in early 2022 (Photo via KCNA/North Korean government/UPI)

The debut of a new ICBM does not necessarily mean that North Korea will no longer test older models. In February, North Korea conducted an ICBM launch drill that south Korean experts believe featured the Hwasong-15, an older version of the missile that reportedly did not perform significantly different from the then-latest model Hwasong-17. The missiles also regularly appear in North Korea’s large-scale communist parades, which are mandatory for citizens to attend. Reports indicate that North Korea is planning a major event to mark the July 27, 1953, signing of an armistice agreement ending active hostilities in the Korean War, which Pyongyang observes as “Victory Day” even though the war never technically ended, so no party has won it.

In this photo provided by the North Korean government, what it says are intercontinental ballistic missiles are displayed during a military parade to mark the 75th founding anniversary of North Korea’s army at Kim Il Sung Square in Pyongyang, North Korea, Wednesday, Feb. 8, 2023. Independent journalists were not given access to cover the event depicted in this image distributed by the North Korean government. The content of this image is as provided and cannot be independently verified. Korean language watermark on image as provided by source reads: "KCNA" which is the abbreviation for Korean Central News Agency. (Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP)

Alleged intercontinental ballistic missiles are displayed during a military parade to mark the 75th founding anniversary of North Korea’s army at Kim Il Sung Square in Pyongyang, North Korea, Wednesday, Feb. 8, 2023. (Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP)

America’s National Security Council (NSC) issued a statement on Thursday condemning the launch of the Hwasong-18.

“This launch is a brazen violation of multiple [United Nations] Security Council resolutions and needlessly raises tensions and risks destabilizing the security situation in the region,” NSC spokesman Adam Hodge said on Thursday, according to the Korea JoongAng Daily, a South Korean newspaper. The NSC urged North Korea to “immediately cease its destabilizing actions and instead choose diplomatic engagement.”

North Korea has largely refused any diplomatic engagement with the administration of leftist President Joe Biden. Early in his presidency, North Korean officials openly boasted of ignoring attempts to communicate from Washington; prior to becoming president, Pyongyang recommended Biden be “beaten to death as quickly as possible.”

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