The missile that Kim Jong-un presented this weekend is capable of carrying multiple nuclear weapons. This probably makes it easier for North Korea to hit an American city with a nuclear weapon using the intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).
The size and possibly the motor operation would ensure that the rocket can carry at least a thousand kilos of payload. That is what weapons experts say after the military parade in Pyongyang last Saturday.
Kim has copied from the former Soviet Union, says Ankit Panda, author of Kim Jong-un and the Bomb: Survival and Deterrence in North Korea. According to Panda, it is more efficient to add warheads to a single system than to build more missiles and launchers.
He estimates that the missile can carry about four warheads. At the end of the 1970s, the medium-range missile SS-20, equipped with three warheads, was launched by the then Soviet Union.
The missile is seen as the ‘new strategic weapon’ that Kim promised to reveal in a New Year’s speech. It appears to be about two to three meters longer than the Hwasong-15, the previous nuclear missile that Kim presented in November 2017.
In addition, the new missile, called Hwasong-16 by the weapons experts, also appears wider. This makes it the largest ICBM in the world that can be transported by road. “It’s gigantic, a monster,” said Melissa Hanham, weapons expert and deputy director of the Open Nuclear Network knowledge platform.
‘New strategic weapon’
North Korea would have to launch eleven ICBM missiles with at least one warhead to have about a 33 percent chance of dodging missile shields and hitting an American city. Panda says that based on public data about the American defense systems.
The more nuclear warheads that can be sent, the more likely it is to overwhelm US interceptors, the author explained today at an online seminar hosted by NK News.
A missile as a defense
In a speech during Saturday’s parade, Kim said he only uses his weapons when threatened. “If anyone uses their troops against us, I preemptively deploy our most powerful attacking force to punish them.”
The missile’s engines were tested last December, but how well they really work can only be measured when North Korea actually launches the Hwasong-16. Such a test would have political ramifications for Kim, as it violates United Nations resolutions. Besides, it would undermine the boast of US President Donald Trump. Trump previously stated that he personally made sure that Kim stopped testing his long-range missiles.