U.S. Says North Korea Tested New ICBM Twice Recently

North Korean ICBM
Credit: Korean Central Television

The U.S. government has determined that North Korea tested a new intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) twice in recent weeks, with these initial launches designed to evaluate the system before an upcoming full-range test.

The launches, which occurred on Feb. 26 and March 4 EST, were of an ICBM that North Korea unveiled during a Korean Workers Party parade in Pyongyang in October 2020. The upcoming test potentially will be disguised as a satellite launch.

“While the [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea] chose not to publicize information on the systems involved in these launches, the United States is revealing this information publicly and sharing it with other allies and partners because we believe that the international community must speak in a unified voice to oppose the further development and proliferation of such weapons by the DPRK,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said in a statement.

The U.S. said the launches are a “brazen violation” of United Nations Security Council resolutions, while also raising tensions and destabilizing security in the region.

Earlier this week, U.S. Indo-Pacific Command ordered intensified surveillance activity in the Yellow Sea and “enhanced readiness” among ballistic missile-defense forces in the region.

State news agency KCNA, at the time of the February test, said it was of a “reconnaissance satellite” that included cameras and signal-processing systems, with data-transmission systems and attitude controls mounted on the spacecraft. The South Korean defense ministry said the missile flew 300 km (188 mi.) and to a maximum altitude of 620 km before crashing into the sea.

The road-mobile missile, as displayed during the 2020 parade, is a liquid-propellent weapon that may by a larger version of the previous Hwasong 15 ICBM, with the Cosun Ilbo newspaper estimating a length of 22-23 m. It appears able to carry multiple warheads, with evidence of small rockets for detaching the payload.

Brian Everstine

Brian Everstine is the Pentagon Editor for Aviation Week, based in Washington, D.C. Before joining Aviation Week in August 2021, he covered the Pentagon for Air Force Magazine. Brian began covering defense aviation in 2011 as a reporter for Military Times.