Hwasong-15 or Hwasong-17: did North Korea fake its last missile launch?

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North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, who oversaw the firing of the country’s most powerful intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) on Thursday, March 24, said he was ready for a “long-term confrontation” with the United States. After the concern of neighboring countries and the indignation expressed by the international community, doubts have arisen about the nature of the missile that was launched.

Washington and Seoul are convinced that the North Korean regime rigged Thursday’s launch of its intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), reports, Sunday March 27, South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency. “Allies believe the North retested a Hwasong-15 ICBM on Thursday, the same type it fired in late 2017, according to multiple sources, Yonhap said. And this, while the North has publicly claimed success launch of a Hwasong-17” missile, the latest missile model.

This analysis, emanating from intelligence services and satellite data, is based on the appearance of the missile’s rocket engine, precisely on the number of its nozzles, and the combustion time of the first stage of the projectile, both characteristics of the Hwasong -15 and not Hwasong-17.

Separately, experts have also cast doubt on the North Korean account when they found that the photo taken at the time of the missile launch showed clear skies in Pyongyang, while the weather was cloudy in the North Korean capital at the time. accuracy of shooting.

They also noted that many images from the March 24 test do not match satellite images of the launch site.

Are these images of the March 16 missile test? This ended in failure, the projectile exploding in the sky above Pyongyang shortly after its launch from Sunan airport, north of the capital. The regime keeps a complete silence on this event.

According to analyzes by the Japanese Ministry of Defense, the missile flew for 71 minutes before falling in the exclusive economic zone, in the Sea of ​​Japan, about 150 km west of the Oshima peninsula, in the northern island of Hokkaido.

“Since the ballistic missile this time flew at an altitude of more than 6,000 km, which was much higher than the Hwasong-15 ICBM which was launched in November 2017, it is believed that the today is a new ICBM,” Japanese Defense Ministry chief Makoto Oniki said on March 24.

The South Korean military has since downplayed the data, Yonhap said, explaining that the projectile fired last week may very well be a Hwasong-15 carrying a lighter warhead designed to seemingly fly like a Hwasong-17, with longer range.

“Monster Missile”

For indeed, the missile that was fired on Thursday flew higher and further than any previous ICBM tested by the nuclear-armed country. Which makes it capable of hitting any part of US territory.

First unveiled in October 2020 and dubbed a “monster missile” by analysts, the Hwasong-17, which Pyongyang claims to have fired, had never been tested before. And this in breach of the moratorium on the launches of intercontinental ballistic missiles to which Kim Jong Un had committed in 2017.

The North Korean leader, who personally oversaw the March 24 trial, according to footage released in North Korea, is so proud of it that he ordered the filming of a propaganda clip in which he appears in a military jacket. black leather and dark sunglasses, walking with officers in front of a huge missile.

The regime has never hidden its priority: to develop an ICBM capable of carrying several conventional or nuclear warheads, each following an independent trajectory, difficult to intercept by anti-missile systems.

“What is important with (Hwasong-17) is not how far it can travel, but what it can potentially carry, i.e. multiple warheads,” said the analyst Ankit Panda at AFP.

UN resolutions prohibit North Korea, hit by heavy international sanctions for its nuclear and armament programs, from carrying out ballistic missile tests, which did not prevent Pyongyang from carrying out around ten tests of this type since the beginning of the year.

But it was not until now intercontinental missiles, even if Washington and Seoul suspect the North Korean regime of having tested certain ICBM systems during these launches.

Hwasong-15 or Hwasong-17, for Kim Jong Un the message remains the same, as summarized by Jeffrey Lewis, of the Middlebury Institute in California, on Twitter : “I will be able to atomize you if you invade me. So don’t do it!”.

With AFP

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