On Thursday, it was disclosed that North Korea successfully deployed its latest intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) named Hwasong-18, which utilizes solid fuel. The launch occurred on Wednesday and followed North Korea’s accusation of the United States trespassing into its airspace with a surveillance drone. The missile’s trajectory reportedly covered a distance of 1,001 kilometers, reaching a peak altitude of 6,648 kilometers, before descending into the East Sea.
This marks only the second time when a solid-fuel-based ICBM has been launched from North Korea, with the last launch attempt taking place in April this year.
Launch guided by leader Kim Jong Un
North Korean state media Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said that the launch was “guided” by the country’s dictator Kim Jong Un, where the missile blasted off with a “grand explosion” that “shook the whole planet”.
Kim also vowed “a series of stronger military offensive” against US and South Korea until they change their “hostile” policies towards the North.
Kim has previously called Hwasong-18 North Korea’s most powerful nuclear weapon. KCNA noted the launch came “at a grave period when the military security situation on the Korean Peninsula and in the region has reached the phase of nuclear crisis beyond the Cold War era as the US and its vassal forces’ unprecedented military provocations against the DPRK have been intensified.”
South Korea and USA’s response
Seoul and Washington have increased their collaboration in security measures as a response to recent events. They have pledged that if Pyongyang were to employ its nuclear weapons against their allies, it would face nuclear retaliation and the potential collapse of its current government.
The South Korean military criticised North Korea’s recent launch, stating that it constituted a significant provocation that jeopardises the peace and security of the Korean peninsula. Furthermore, the launch is in violation of United Nations sanctions imposed on Pyongyang. South Korea has called on North Korea to cease such actions.
The United Nations, United States, and their allies, including France, strongly condemned the launch as well. The US National Security Council spokesperson, Adam Hodge, emphasised that this act flagrantly violates multiple UN Security Council resolutions and needlessly escalates tensions, posing a risk to regional security.
Why North Korea is developing solid-fuel-based missiles?
The use of solid fuel in missiles has notable advantages. Solid fuel is denser and burns quickly, resulting in rapid thrust generation. Additionally, it can be stored for longer periods without degradation or breakdown, which is a common problem with liquid fuel.
According to Vann Van Diepen, a former US government weapons expert currently affiliated with the North Korea monitoring project, 38 North, solid-fuel missiles are easier and safer to operate. They require less logistical support, making them more difficult to detect and increasing their survivability compared to liquid-fuel weapons.