North Korea’s Kim threatens ‘more offensive actions’ vs. U.S.

SEOUL, South Korea — North Korean leader Kim Jong Un threatened “more offensive actions” to repel what he called increasing United States-led military threats after he supervised the third test of his country’s most advanced missile designed to strike the mainland U.S., state media reported Tuesday.

Kim’s statement suggests he is confident in his growing missile arsenal and will likely continue weapons testing activities ahead of the 2024 U.S. presidential election. But many observers say North Korea still needs to perform more significant tests to prove it has functioning missiles targeting the U.S. mainland.

After watching Monday’s launch of the Hwasong-18 intercontinental ballistic missile, Kim said the test showed how North Korea could respond if the United States were to make “a wrong decision against it,” according to the official Korean Central News Agency.

Kim stressed the need to “never overlook all the reckless and irresponsible military threats of the enemies ... and to strongly counter them with more offensive actions,” KCNA said.

The Hwasong-18 ICBM is a developmental, solid-fueled ICBM that is considered North Korea’s most powerful weapon. Its built-in solid propellant makes launches harder for outsiders to detect than liquid-fueled missiles, which must be fueled before liftoffs. But many foreign experts say North Korea still has some other technological hurdles to master to acquire reliable nuclear-tipped ICBMs, such as one to protect warheads from the harsh conditions of atmospheric reentry.

KCNA said the Hwasong-18 missile — launched at a high angle to avoid neighboring countries — flew a distance of 1,002 kilometers for 73.5 minutes at a maximum altitude of 6,518 kilometers before landing in an area off the North’s east coast. It said Kim expressed “great satisfaction” with the launch, which verified again the reliability of “the most powerful strategic core striking means” of North Korea.

It was the North’s third test of the Hwasong-18 missile. Its two previous launches were in April and July.

“Based on their statement, this looks to have been an exercise in signaling and a developmental test in one,” said Ankit Panda, an expert with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. “There’s nothing new here technically as far as I can tell at this early stage, but they’re certainly growing increasingly confident in their new solid propellant ICBM.”

Leif-Eric Easley, a professor at Ewha University in Seoul, said the North’s latest ICBM test is another indicator of how far its missile engine technology has progressed, but added there are limits to what North Korea can learn from lofted trajectory firings.

“Demonstrating warhead targeting and reentry capabilities would involve provocative launches across greater distances,” Easley said. “So more significant tests of both technology and diplomacy are likely in the New Year.”


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