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North Korea, with its new intercontinental-range ballistic missile makes it clear that it is a nuclear weapons nation

A Nuclear North Korea’s Wake-up Call, A spectacular pre-dawn parade on Saturday served to remind the world of North Korea’s continuing missile progress.  The Diplomat, By Ankit Panda, October 13, 2020  On Saturday, October 10, North Korea celebrated the 75th anniversary of the founding of the Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK), the country’s ruling party. The occasion was celebrated in a grand way, with an unprecedented pre-dawn military parade. Thousands of uniformed military personnel marched through Pyongyang’s renovated Kim Il Sung Square in perfect unison, trailed by scores of heavy military vehicles……..

A ‘New Strategic Weapon,’ As Promised

The parade reached its climax with the reveal of an all-new intercontinental-range ballistic missile (ICBM) design. Prior to the parade, North Korea’s largest known nuclear-capable ballistic missile was the Hwasong-15, the ICBM that was tested for the first (and so far only) time in November 2017. After four Hwasong-15s rolled through Kim Il Sung Square, an even larger missile appeared in its wake. Four of these super-large ICBMs followed in the wake of the Hwasong-15s, in a single file formation. Not only were these missiles the largest ever to be seen in North Korea, they were the largest road-mobile missiles on integrated launchers seen anywhere in the world……….

For the United States, this missile is not good news. Not only does it underscore the failure of the Trump administration’s diplomatic attempts to constrain North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs; it also emphasizes the continuing growth of Pyongyang’s qualitative capabilities. A lot remains unknown about the precise capabilities of this new missile, but its sheer size certainly implies that it would be capable of carrying and delivering multiple nuclear reentry vehicles to likely the entire continental U.S. As North Korea’s weapons-grade fissile material stocks continue to grow, it likely will have enough fissile material on hand to justify allocating resources toward a multiple reentry vehicle capability. ………

By adding warheads to its ICBMs, North Korea will improve the probability that at least one of its thermonuclear reentry vehicles successfully penetrates U.S. missile defenses. To keep up with changes in North Korea’s growing force, the U.S. will have to spend hundreds of millions adding interceptors. North Korea, meanwhile, even under economic sanctions, appears fully capable of continuing to expand its ICBM capabilities………

Despite the nighttime setting, Kim’s reveal of his new ICBM made it clear as day that North Korea remained a capable and growing nuclear state………

What the parade does in the end is clarify the big picture about North Korea’s status as a nuclear weapons possessor: its nuclear forces grow larger and more refined with every passing week. Having largely crossed the qualitative thresholds it felt were needed for a rudimentary and minimally credible deterrent in 2017, Pyongyang is continuing to evolve its force.

Ankit Panda is editor-at-large at The Diplomat, the Stanton senior fellow in the Nuclear Policy Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, and author of ‘Kim Jong Un and the Bomb: Survival and Deterrence in North Korea’ (Hurst/Oxford University Press, 2020). Follow him on Twitter at @nktpnd. https://thediplomat.com/2020/10/a-nuclear-north-koreas-wake-up-call/

October 15, 2020 - Posted by | North Korea, weapons and war

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