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Experts divided over NK’s missile technology

North Korea showcases a new intercontinental ballistic missile to mark the founding anniversary of the Workers’ Party in Pyongyang on Oct. 10, 2020. (KCNA-Yonhap)
North Korea showcases a new intercontinental ballistic missile to mark the founding anniversary of the Workers’ Party in Pyongyang on Oct. 10, 2020. (KCNA-Yonhap)
North Korea has revealed newer ballistic missiles, but experts are divided over whether the regime has secured the latest technology to mount multiple warheads atop the missiles.

“It depends a little bit on how big it really is, but I would say this represents certainly the ability to put multiple nuclear warheads on a missile like this,” Jeffrey Lewis of the Middlebury Institute of International Studies in the US told Voice of America on Monday.

Pyongyang unveiled Saturday an intercontinental ballistic missile larger than the Hwasong-15, the first ICBM it test-fired in 2017, along with a submarine-launched ballistic missile -- wider in diameter but smaller and lighter -- that suggests more room for warheads in the nose tip.

Lewis noted that putting multiple warheads aboard the missiles would be an effective way to overwhelm US missile defenses.

However, some experts were cautious.

“That may be an aspiration they have, yet it’s pretty hard to do that,” Ian Williams, deputy director of the Missile Defense Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told VOA.

The missile expert described the latest missile technology as either basic or advanced, with the warheads in an advanced missile capable of hitting more than one target. And North Korea has a long way to go in perfecting that technology, according to Williams.

Local experts also expressed reservations about the North’s missile capabilities.

“Pyongyang has yet to fully demonstrate the technology in question,” Ryu Seong-yeop, an intelligence analyst at the Korea Research Institute for Military Affairs, told The Korea Herald.

Ryu described the missiles at the parade as prototypes that would have to go through tests.

Shin Jong-woo, a senior analyst at the Korea Defense and Security Forum, concurred, saying, “At the moment, it’s all assumptions, and only test launches could corroborate them.” He added that tests would likely come after the US presidential election in November.

Meanwhile, US President Donald Trump was reportedly angry about North Korea’s missile parade and disappointed in leader Kim Jong-un, according to a tweet from Alex Ward, a reporter at the American news website Vox, on Sunday, citing an anonymous source.

Trump has long touted his rapport with Kim, but their three meetings and subsequent working-level talks on North Korea’s denuclearization have all fallen apart, due to differences over Washington’s demands for disarmament and Pyongyang’s insistence on sanctions relief.

By Choi Si-young (siyoungchoi@heraldcorp.com)
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