For weeks, the South Korean, Japanese and US militaries have scoured the North Korean skies to see the launch by regime soldiers of a new generation of intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), presented as particularly powerful. This Wednesday morning, around 9:30 a.m. Pyongyang time, all the intelligence services of the major countries in the region saw rocket fire from a field near the North Korean capital, but quickly understood that the test was failing.
Although analyzes of the shot have only just begun, a Korean official from the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) has already told Yonhap news agency that “the projectile did not reach the planned height in the first stage of acceleration”. By early afternoon, experts had not yet provided any clues as to the exact nature of the missile being tested by Kim Jong-un’s regime. All expect a new test in the coming days.
The new Hwasong-17
North Korea would first attempt to test its intercontinental ballistic missile called “Hwasong-17”. This 25-meter “monster” machine was put on display at a major military parade in Pyongyang in October 2020 before being presented again last year at an exhibition on military equipment from the country.
However, this new device was never launched. Compared to the Hwasong-14, the first-ever flight-tested ICBM by North Korea, and the Hwasong-15, the largest ICBM tested by North Korea to date, the new Hwasong-17 is significantly larger. the largest liquid-propellant rocket ever deployed in a mobile configuration on the road in human history,” study researcher Ankit Panda recalled in his latest note to the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace think tank.
A five-headed rocket
Analysts estimate that it could theoretically fly a distance of 15,000 kilometers, allowing it to strike anywhere in the United States or Europe, and carry up to 5 nuclear warheads, nuclear or conventional, capable of hitting a variety of targets while facilitating enemy attacks. can evade missile defense systems.
To prepare a “life-size” test of this “Hwasong-17”, North Korea conducted preliminary tests on February 27 and March 4 to check some of its components. “The purpose of these tests, which failed to demonstrate the range of ICBMs, was likely to evaluate this new system before conducting a full-scale test in the future, possibly disguised as a space launch,” the US warned in a statement. Department of Defense.
New rise in tensions
If confirmed, this launch of a new generation of intercontinental ballistic missiles will spark another rise in tensions in the Korean peninsula. In recent months, North Korea has conducted a series of medium-weight missile tests, but has not dared to fly again with the kinds of devices that infuriated the international community in the mid-2010s and prompted the major powers to take heavy economic and financial sanctions thereon.
Kim Jong-un has not ordered any ICBM launches or nuclear charge tests since 2017. The following year, he indicated that he even agreed to impose some form of “moratorium” on these weapons tests that are troubling the United States, South Korea or even Japan. The dictator had accompanied this breakup with a proliferation of key summits with US, South Korean and Russian leaders. He then hoped to convince them to lift some of the sanctions that were choking the North Korean economy in exchange for vague promises about the nuclear arsenal.
But the leader never got anything. Because it does not seem to anticipate a serious resumption of talks with Washington in the current international context and no longer hopes for an early lifting of sanctions, it is said to have decided to end its 2018 moratorium on efforts to modernize its arsenal. to speed up. A process that could be accompanied by another warhead test in the coming months.