SEOUL – North Korea last week simulated the launch of what analysts called its “monster missile,” Seoul’s military said on Wednesday, adding that in reality the test was likely the same ICBM that Pyongyang fired in 2017.
Last Friday, North Korea claimed to have successfully tested a Hwasong-17 missile – a long-range ICBM that analysts say could carry multiple warheads – which it first unveiled at a military parade in 2020.
However, South Korea’s defense ministry told AFP that Seoul and Washington have now concluded that it was indeed a Hwasong-15, an ICBM that Pyongyang tested in 2017.
“US and South Korean intelligence determined what was fired on March 24 was a Hwasong-15,” the Defense Department official told AFP.
Both ICBMs are potentially capable of hitting the continental United States.
Seoul and Tokyo separately confirmed at the time that the March 24 missile flew higher and longer than all previous tests – but analysts later pointed to inconsistencies in North Korea’s account.
The fake announcement was likely an attempt by Pyongyang to make up for a failed launch on March 16, when a missile that analysts said was actually the Hwasong-17 exploded shortly after launch.
Debris from the failed test fell in or near Pyongyang as a ball of red-colored smoke zigzagged across the sky, according to Seoul-based specialist website NK News.
“The people of Pyongyang must have been shocked” by the failure of the launch, and it may have influenced public opinion on the Kim regime, MK Ha Tae-keung of the conservative People’s Power Party (PPP) told reporters.
North Korean state media – Rodong Sinmun and the KCNA news agency – did not report on the failed launch at the time.
They usually carry reports of successful weapons tests, often with photographs, within 24 hours of launch.
But the March 24 launch was trumpeted on state media, and KCTV released a nifty video allegedly showing the giant rocket being successfully tested.
Analysts pointed to inconsistencies in the images that could suggest parts of the March 24 launch were fake.