In photos, North Korea signals a more
powerful ICBM in the works
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[August 24, 2017]
By Jack Kim and Heekyong Yang
SEOUL (Reuters) - With photographs
obliquely showing a new rocket design, North Korea has sent a message
that it is working on an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) more
powerful than any it has previously tested, weapons experts said on
If developed, such a missile could possibly reach any place on the U.S.
mainland, including Washington and New York, they said.
North Korea's state media published photographs late on Wednesday of
leader Kim Jong Un standing next to a diagram of a three-stage rocket it
called the Hwasong-13.
Missile experts, who carefully examine such pictures for clues about
North Korea's weapons programs, said there is no indication that the
rocket has been fully developed. In any case, it had not been flight
tested and it was impossible to calculate its potential range, they
However, a three-stage rocket would be more powerful than the two-stage
Hwasong-14 ICBM tested on two occasions in July, they said. South Korean
and U.S. officials and experts have said the Hwasong-14 possibly had a
range of about 10,000 km (6,200 miles) and could strike many parts of
the United States, but not the East Coast.
"We should be looking at Hwasong-13 as a 12,000-km class ICBM that can
strike all of the mainland United States," said Kim Dong-yub, a military
expert at Kyungnam University's Institute for Far Eastern Studies in
A distance in excess of 11,000 km (6,800 miles) will put Washington and
New York within range from anywhere in North Korea.
"It's likely meant to show that they are working on a three-stage design
with greater boost and range," said retired Brigadier General Moon
Sung-muk, an arms control expert who has represented South Korea in
military talks with the North.
"They tested the Hwasong-14 which has an estimated range of 9,000 km,
10,000 km. This one can go further, is the message," he said.
Pyongyang's intentions in showing plans for the new missile were clear,
the experts said. The photographs were accompanied by a report of Kim
issuing instructions for the production of more rocket engines and
warheads during a visit to the Academy of Defense Sciences, an agency he
has set up to develop ballistic missiles.
"We're getting a look at it to emphasize domestic production of
missiles, and to advertise what's coming next," said Joshua Pollack, a
nuclear weapon and missile systems expert who edits the U.S.-based
[to top of second column]
North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un looks on during a visit to the
Chemical Material Institute of the Academy of Defense Science in
this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News
Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang on August 23, 2017. KCNA/via REUTERS
The photographs were published as tensions between North Korea and
the United States appeared to have eased slightly after the isolated
nation tested the Hwasong-14 and later threatened to fire missiles
toward the U.S. Pacific territory of Guam.
Wednesday's report carried by the KCNA news agency lacked the
traditionally robust threats against the United States, and U.S.
President Donald Trump expressed optimism about a possible
improvement in relations.
Kim, the expert at Kyungnam University, said from the design
standpoint, Hwasong-13 was similar to the KN-08, a three-stage
missile of which only a mockup has previously been seen at military
parades. But the new images show a modified design for the main
booster stage that clusters two engines.
Another picture published by North Korean state media showed Kim
Jong Un standing next to a rocket casing that appeared to be made of
a material that could include plastic. Experts said if such material
were used in the missile, it would be intended to reduce weight and
The photographs also showed the design for the Pukguksong-3, likely
a new solid-fuel intermediate-range ballistic missile being
developed for submarine launches.
Moon, the former South Korean general, said the pictures were
intended to show that the North was refusing to bow to international
pressure to call off its weapons programs.
"The North is trying to be in control of the playing field," Moon
(Additional reporting by James Pearson and Christine Kim; Editing by
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