Military and Defense

North Korea Touts Massive Missile Buildup, Signals Major Nuke Advancements

North Korea showed off a massively expanded intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) arsenal capable of ferrying nuclear warheads to the U.S. in a Wednesday night parade, according to media reports.

The highlight of the parade featured at least 11 of North Korea’s most up-to-date Hwasong-17 ICBMs and a mock-up of a more advanced version that can deploy faster and evade detection, state media photos showed, according to The Wall Street Journal. North Korea has never displayed that many nuclear-capable missiles at once, signaling the country’s resolve to achieve “tremendous nuclear strike capability,” state media said, and overpower U.S. defenses.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un and his young daughter, who is seen to be Kim’s successor, attended the army’s 75th anniversary parade, the WSJ reported.

“This time, Kim Jong Un let North Korea’s expanding tactical and long-range missile forces speak for themselves,” said Leif-Eric Easley, a professor at Ewha University in Seoul, told Reuters. “The message Pyongyang wants to send internationally, demonstrating its capabilities to deter and coerce, will likely come in the form of solid-fuel missile tests and detonation of a miniaturised nuclear device.”

The North Korean army conducted a test launch of the Hwasong-17, which debuted in 2020, for the first time in 2022 in the midst of the country’s historic missile testing spree, the WSJ reported. The missile is capable of crossing oceans and potentially striking U.S. territory with a nuclear warhead.

In addition, photos of the parade demonstrated potential further advancements, including launch vehicles specified for solid-fueled ICBMs that adversaries could struggle to identify and intercept, Reuters reported. The vehicles indicate North Korea may be preparing to test the advanced missiles, analysts said.

The U.S. operates 44 ground-based interceptors on its western coastline intended to destroy incoming IBCMs, accordingto the Missile Defense Agency. However, if North Korea could fit four warheads on each missile, it could potentially overwhelm U.S. defenses.

Kim ordered the army to mass produce nuclear missiles in 2018, according to the WSJ. Then, at a Workers Party annual meeting in December 2022, Kim pledged to supersize the country’s nuclear arsenal and develop tactical nuclear weapons prepared to strike South Korea.

The Western response to North Korea’s military buildup has in recent years moved away from attempting engagement on denuclearization; both sides blame the other for stalling talks and taking provocative action, according to Voice of America. Instead, the U.S. has shifted to deepening military cooperation with South Korea and Japan to ward off potential aggression from North Korea, Politico reported.

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