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Solid-fuel ICBM may be N. Korea’s new strategic weapon: report

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un speaks during the fifth Plenary Meeting of the seventh Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea on Dec. 29, 2019. (KCNA-Yonhap)
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un speaks during the fifth Plenary Meeting of the seventh Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea on Dec. 29, 2019. (KCNA-Yonhap)
The “new strategic weapon” North Korean leader Kim Jong-un mentioned could be an advanced intercontinental ballistic missile, Voice of America reported, citing multiple North Korea experts.

“I think we could see something like solid fuel ICBM launch from North Korea. That doesn’t actually mean that they developed it by themselves,” Markus Schiller, who is an expert in mechanical and aerospace engineering, told VOA on Wednesday.

Schiller said the North would go their path and try to be on a “level with Russia, China and the US” to “send exactly the sign that they want.” The new weapon could be heavily reliant on foreign technologies such as Russia’s, he said.

David Maxwell, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies in the US, offered another option. “I think it (new strategic weapon) would be an ICBM with a nuclear weapon on it, that they test and detonate in the atmosphere over the Pacific Ocean,” Maxwell told VOA.

Maxwell, a former planning officer who served on the ROK-US Combined Forced Command, said if the North pulls off that test and demonstrates progress in its nuclear capability, the new weapon would be a “game changer,” as every following launch could be an ICBM carrying a nuclear weapon targeting the US.

Bruce Bennett, a senior defense analyst at the Rand Corp., doubted whether the North is capable of even firing an actual ICBM off the US coast. The communist regime has not really demonstrated an actual ICBM launch, he said. Kim’s reference to a new strategic weapon aimed at dividing Seoul and Washington, he added.

“By threatening he's not going to lose any ground on decoupling the alliance. By doing an actual launch he could,” he said, noting Kim did not deliver the “Christmas gift” that he had repeatedly warned of earlier in a move seen as trying to pull concessions from US President Donald Trump amid their stalled nuclear talks.

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