‘N.Korea tests new ICBM system, US to impose additional sanctions’
Washington: North Korea’s two most recent missile launches were aimed at testing a new intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) system ahead of a possible full-fledged ICBM test, a senior US official has said, adding the US plans to take action that will hinder Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile programs.
North Korea earlier confirmed launching missiles on February 27 and March 4, claiming they were aimed at developing a reconnaissance satellite, Yonhap news agency reported.
“After careful analysis, the US government has concluded that the DPRK’s two ballistic missile tests on February 26, March 4 involved a relatively new intercontinental ballistic missile system,” the US administration official said in a telephonic press briefing, referring to North Korea by its official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the new ICBM was first unveiled during a 2020 parade in Pyongyang.
Pyongyang had showcased its new ICBM, Hwasong-17, during a parade that marked the 75th anniversary of the founding of the ruling Workers’ Party on October 10, 2020,
Experts have since noted the Hwasong-17 was mounted on a transporter erector launcher (TEL) with 22 wheels, compared with a 18-wheel TEL used to transport the Hwasong-15 ICBM, a possible indication that it may have a longer range than previous models.
The US official said the North’s latest missile tests did not demonstrate the range or capability of an ICBM.
“These launches are likely intended to test elements of this new system before the DPRK conducts a launch at full range, which they will potentially attempt to disguise as a space launch,” said the official.
The South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff earlier said the North Korean missile launched on February 27 flew about 300 kilometers at a maximum altitude of 620 km, and that the missile fired March flew 270 km at a top altitude of 560 km.
North Korea reported on Thursday that leader Kim Jong-un had visited the country’s space agency and commended recent efforts to develop a reconnaissance satellite.
On Friday, the North said Kim also visited a satellite test site on the west coast that is said to be capable of launching ICBMs.
North Korea has maintained a self-imposed moratorium on nuclear and long-range missile testing since late 2017, but said in January that it may consider restarting “all temporarily-suspended activities” amid a stalemate in dialogue with the US.
The US Department of Treasury will announce a set of new steps on Friday that will help prevent North Korea from “accessing foreign items and technology that enable it to advance prohibited weapons programs”, the US administration official said.