Since Joe Biden took up his residence in the White House, North Korea has ramped up its nuclear tests and posturing. While President Donald Trump tried to generate a detente with North Korea, Biden seems to have simply watched as the Hermit Kingdom’s power has grown. Dasl Yoon reports for The Wall Street Journal on North Korea’s recent tests of an ICBM that can hit anywhere in the mainland United States, writing:
North Korea celebrated the recent launch of a powerful intercontinental ballistic missile with the bravado the world has come to expect from Kim Jong Un’s regime.
The North Korean leader described the country’s missiles as “monuments to be passed down to our descendants for generations to come” and promoted more than 100 military officials and scientists involved in missile development. He gave the missile’s launch vehicle the title of national hero and brought his daughter—making her first public appearance—to the test.
North Korea has said the ICBM was the Hwasong-17, its newest generation of missiles. However, experts say that for now it lacks the technology that would make it a potent weapon against the U.S.
The ICBM tested on Nov. 18 was launched at a lofted trajectory, reaching an altitude of more than 3,700 miles and traveling a distance of about 620 miles. Japanese officials said it had the range to cover the entire U.S. mainland if it were on a regular trajectory.
For the Kim regime, possessing nuclear weapons is a way to forestall attempts at regime change, guaranteeing its survival. The country declared itself a “full-fledged nuclear power capable of standing against the nuclear supremacy of the U.S. imperialists,” in an order signed by Pyongyang’s rubber-stamp parliament on Nov. 26 and published in state media the following day.
While North Korea has long established that it has nuclear weapons and ICBMs, the question of whether the regime possesses the technology to send a missile through the atmosphere while carrying several nuclear warheads is a different matter.
Based on the Hwasong-17’s length and diameter, first unveiled during a military parade in October 2020, it appears capable of delivering a larger payload compared with the country’s previous generation of ICBMs, the Hwasong-15.
North Korea hasn’t shown that the ICBM can launch successfully while carrying heavy components that allow a missile to strike multiple locations at once. To do that, the ICBM would need to carry a post-boost vehicle, an apparatus that detaches from the missile’s main boosters outside of the Earth’s atmosphere and releases multiple warheads at separate targets, said Chang Young-keun, a missile expert at Korea Aerospace University in South Korea. These components combined add extra weight of up to 2 tons, diminishing the distance the missile can travel by about 1,200 to 2,500 miles, he said.
“The next step for North Korea would be to miniaturize its warheads,” Mr. Chang said.
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