North Korea’s Eighth Ballistic Missile Launch This Year. Second in a Week.
This morning, North Korea test-fired its eighth ballistic missile this year, and the second within a week, as the US dispatched the USS Ronald Regan carrier strike group to join the USS Carl Vinson carrier strike group in the Sea of Japan for exercises.
The missile launched today is widely believed to be the KN-15 Pukkuksong-2 Medium-Range Ballistic Missile (MRBM). The missile was launched from Pukchang flying east about 500 km before landing in the Sea of Japan, and reached a maximum altitude of 560 kilometers. It matches the February 2017 first successful test flight of the KN-15 MRBM and the previous August 2016 flight of the KN-11 Pukkuksong-1 Submarine-Launched Ballistic Missile from which the KN-15 is derived. The KN-15 MRBM is a land-based, cold-launched, two-stage, solid propellant, cold-launched, nuclear-capable missile with an estimated range of 1,200-2,000 kilometers.
Last Sunday, North Korea successfully launched what it called a new type of ballistic missile capable of carrying a large nuclear warhead. The Hwasong-12, Intermediate-Range Ballistic Missile (IRBM) landed in the Sea of Japan in Russia’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and demonstrated progress in developing an Inter-Continental Ballistic Missile (ICBM). The Hwasong-12 IRBM is a liquid-fueled, possibly single-stage (or maybe two-stage) rocket with an estimated range of 4500 kilometers or 2800 miles. As previously reported, the Hwasong-12 IRBM first appeared in North Korea’s “Day of the Sun” parade on April 15, 2017.
The Hwasong-12 may be a shortened version of North Korea’s untested KN-08 ICBM or an altogether new missile system and is fired from the transporter-erector launcher (TEL) vehicle previously associated with the BM-25 Musudan IRBM. The recent Hwasong-12 IRBM test reportedly achieved a "successful" controlled re-entry into the earth's lower atmosphere rather than falling back to the surface or burning up which suggests that the North has overcome one of the last remaining technical hurdles to an effective ICBM. The Hwasong-12 IRBM effectively puts the US territory Guam in range and is close to being able to strike Alaska and Hawaii.
The UN Security Council is expected to meet Tuesday to discuss the North’s latest missile launch in what is becoming an almost normal occurence.