North Korea tests solid-fuel ICBM, Kim Jong Un overseeing launch


North Korea announced that it has conducted a successful test of its latest intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), with Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un personally overseeing the launch. The test comes in the wake of North Korea’s threat to shoot down any US spy planes entering its airspace. State media images depicted Kim, accompanied by his wife and top aides, applauding enthusiastically following the launch of the solid-fuel Hwasong-18 missile on Wednesday.

According to the Korean Central News Agency, the ICBM, previously fired only once in April, traveled a distance of 1,001 kilometers, reaching a maximum altitude of 6,648 km before descending into the East Sea, also known as the Sea of Japan. The official news agency described the launch as a “grand explosion” that had a seismic impact on the planet. State media footage showed the missile soaring into the sky.

Kim Jong Un stated that North Korea would initiate a series of stronger military offensives until the United States and South Korea alter their policies towards the nation, as reported by KCNA. Furthermore, citing the “unstable situation” on the Korean peninsula, Kim called for intensified efforts to bolster North Korea’s nuclear arsenal.

The confirmation of the test, initially reported by the South Korean military on Wednesday, coincides with the deterioration of relations between the two Koreas, reaching one of their lowest points in history. Diplomatic efforts have stalled, and Kim has advocated for the escalation of weapons development, including tactical nuclear weapons.

In response, Seoul and Washington have reinforced security cooperation, emphasizing that any employment of nuclear weapons by Pyongyang against the allies would be met with a nuclear response and the potential end of the current North Korean government.

Seoul labeled Wednesday’s launch as a “grave provocation” that undermines the peace and security of the Korean peninsula. The United Nations, the United States, and their allies strongly condemned the test.

Hirokazu Matsuno, Japan’s top government spokesperson, informed reporters that the test appeared to involve the same solid-fuel ICBM missile previously fired in April. Matsuno warned that such missiles possess an advantage in terms of immediate launch capability compared to Pyongyang’s liquid-fueled missiles.

According to the Seoul-based specialist site NK News, the test was conducted from a launchpad designed to resemble a natural park surrounded by ponds and trees, situated within a private mansion owned by the Kim family on the east side of Pyongyang.

This recent test comes after North Korea accused a US spy plane of violating its airspace on Monday and criticized Washington’s plans to deploy a nuclear missile submarine near the Korean peninsula. Pyongyang accused the US of intensifying espionage activities with provocative spy plane flights, warning of potential accidents in the East Sea of Korea.

Kim Yo Jong, Kim’s influential sister, condemned the alleged US spy aircraft airspace violations and cautioned that North Korea would take decisive action if its maritime military demarcation line was crossed.

In April, the United States announced the upcoming visit of one of its nuclear-armed ballistic submarines to a South Korean port for the first time in decades, without specifying a precise date.

South Korea and the United States are scheduled to commence their major annual joint military exercises, known as Ulchi Freedom Shield, next month. North Korea perceives these exercises as rehearsals for invasion and has characterized them as frantic drills simulating an all-out war against Pyongyang.

Choi Gi-il, a professor of military studies at Sangji University, predicted that North Korea would likely continue launching missiles similar to the Hwasong-18 throughout August, coinciding with the joint South Korea-US military exercises. Despite the high costs associated with conducting ICBM launches, especially considering North Korea’s dire economic conditions and reports of food shortages, Choi stated that the country had enough missiles prepared to sustain its testing spree.

Recent satellite images indicate that Pyongyang is preparing for a massive military parade later this month to commemorate the July 27 armistice anniversary of the Korean War, known as Victory Day in North Korea.

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