North Korea: This ICBM Was Like No Other

Country claims ICBM launched Thursday was a solid-fuel version
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 14, 2023 8:50 AM CDT
North Korea Claims This Missile Launch Was a Leap Forward
This photo provided April 14, 2023, by the North Korean government, shows what it says is the test-launch of Hwasong-18 intercontinental ballistic missile Thursday, April 13, 2023 at an undisclosed location, North Korea.   (Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP)

North Korea's neighbors reported the country launched a missile on Thursday morning, and on Friday, Pyongyang said it wasn't just any missile: The regime claimed it tested a solid-fuel intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) for the first time, which the AP frames as "a possible breakthrough in its efforts to acquire a more powerful, harder-to-detect weapon targeting the continental United States."

South Korea's defense ministry on Friday confirmed it was a solid-fuel ICBM, reports the New York Times, but it indicated it did not believe the North had yet perfected the technology. Specifically, the AP acknowledges that "it remains unclear how far North Korea has come in mastering technologies to ensure the warhead would withstand atmospheric reentry and accurately strike targets." The so-called Hwasung-18 is the successor to the liquid-fueled Hwasung-17, which was tested last month and has the capability of reaching the US mainland.

The Guardian explains solid-fueled missiles have a leg-up over liquid ones in that the latter are fueled just prior to launch while the former are fueled when they are made, which cuts down on the time needed to prep them for launch—the difference can be minutes versus hours, reports Al-Jazeera. A researcher at the Asan Institute for Policy Studies in Seoul explains that it's not just a matter of efficiency: "The longer it takes after bringing out the missile from a silo or a tunnel, the higher the possibility of destruction before launch.” (More North Korea stories.)

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