In the last week, North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un has continued to channel the good cop side of his personae, which started with his New Year’s Day offer to take part in the South Korean Olympics. Yesterday, the White House announced that it had received an offer from the North for President Trump to meet with Kim in the next two months to talk about security and nuclear weapons—a proposal the White House accepted. Read More
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March 9, 2018 12:30 PM EDT
December 7, 2017 2:53 PM EDT
Photos of the Hwasong-15 missile North Korea launched on its November 29 test suggest it is considerably more capable than the long-range missiles it tested in July. This missile’s length and diameter appear to be larger by about 10 percent than July’s Hwasong-14. It has a significantly larger second stage and a new engine in the first stage that appears to be much more powerful.
While we are still working through the details, this strongly implies that North Korea could use this missile to carry a nuclear warhead to cities throughout the United States. A final possible barrier people are discussing is whether Pyongyang has been able to develop a reentry vehicle that can successfully carry a warhead through the atmosphere to its target, while protecting the warhead from the very high stresses and heat of reentry. Read more >
December 5, 2017 11:07 AM EDT
News reports say that a Cathay Airlines flight crew on November 29 reported seeing North Korea’s missile “blow up and fall apart” during its recent flight test. Since reports also refer to this as happening during “reentry,” they have suggested problems with North Korea’s reentry technology.
But the details suggest the crew instead saw the missile early in flight, and probably did not see an explosion. Read more >
November 28, 2017 3:32 PM EDT
After more than two months without a missile launch, North Korea did a middle-of-the-night test (3:17 a.m. in Japan) today that appears to be its longest yet.
Reports are saying that the missile test was highly lofted and landed in the Sea of Japan some 960 km (600 miles) from the launch site. They are also saying the missile reached a maximum altitude of 4,500 km. This would mean that it flew for about 54 minutes, which is consistent with reports from Japan.
If these numbers are correct, then if flown on a standard trajectory rather than this lofted trajectory, this missile would have a range of more than 13,000 kilometers (km) (8,100 miles). This is significantly longer than North Korea’s previous long range tests, which flew on lofted trajectories for 37 minutes (July 4) and 47 minutes (July 28). Such a missile would have more than enough range to reach Washington, D.C., and in fact any part of the continental United States.
We do not know how heavy a payload this missile carried, but given the increase in range it seems likely that it carried a very light mock warhead. If true, that means it would be incapable of carrying a nuclear warhead to this long distance, since such a warhead would be much heavier.