Earlier this week we discussed an announcement from the apparently still living Kim Jong-un that he was beginning a “new campaign” where he would be rolling out some exciting new weapons for the world to see. As it turns out, he probably wasn’t bluffing. Last night a massive parade was held in Pyongyang’s Kim Il Sung Square, overseen by the diminutive dictator himself. And on display were a wide array of weapons including multiple, massive ICBMs, supposedly capable of vastly increased range and the ability to carry larger nuclear payloads. Kim’s speech, however, was still less confrontational and threatening than the ones he’s given in years past. (Associated Press)
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un warned Saturday that his country would “fully mobilize” its nuclear force if threatened as he took center stage at a massive military parade to mark the 75th anniversary of the country’s ruling party.
Kim, however, avoided direct criticism of Washington during the event, which took place less than four weeks before the U.S. presidential election. Instead, he focused on a domestic message urging his people to remain firm in face of “tremendous challenges” posed by the coronavirus pandemic and crippling U.S.-led sanctions over his nuclear program.
Outside observers were expecting the North to possibly unveil the latest weapons in its growing nuclear arsenal that threatens U.S. allies in Asia and the American mainland.
There are two things we should focus on here. One is the advancements in North Korea’s nuclear weapons arsenal and the other is Kim’s tone in this speech and what’s been revealed about his previous statements during this exhibition. As to the latter, Kim still seems to be trying to string the United States along in the hopes of continuing negotiations with Donald Trump. But the bevy of weapons he rolled out clearly shows that all the while he was supposedly observing a “moratorium” on nuclear weapons development and capabilities as a sign of good faith as he talked about denuclearization with the White House, he was actively developing new and more powerful delivery systems. In other words, he’s been lying to us the entire time. (I know you’re shocked.)
As to how serious we should take these new ICBMS, well… pretty seriously. For more on this, please check out military analyst Tyler Rogoway’s report at The War Zone for the alarming details.
It cannot be underestimated what we just saw. Many will say that it is all for show— some of it is—but the realities of recent history run quite counter to the assumption that the weapons shown are hollow effigies of the real McCoy. In fact, such a view has become laughably dated and downright inaccurate. When it comes to weapons development, under the Kim Jung Un regime, the proof has very much been in the pudding. The level of candor regarding his military technology ambitions has been striking in its honesty and accuracy. Those who chronically underestimated North Korea are living in the past.
The Hermit Kingdom has proven to be amazingly resourceful under the Kim Jong Un and has delivered capabilities many hung their careers on claiming could only be obtained far in the future. This is something The War Zone warned about years ago, and we were proven to be all too correct, unfortunately.
Our intelligence sources seem confident that these missiles are not just dummies prepared for PR purposes. Some of the largest ICBMs on display last night appear to be significantly improved and expanded versions of the Hwasong HS-15s that we already knew about. The projected range of this ICBM could reach virtually anywhere in the continental United States and appears to have the capacity to carry multiple independently targetable reentry vehicles (MIRVs). Other missiles displayed during the parade were clearly solid-fuel rockets with significantly enhanced capabilities compared to the older, liquid-fueled models the North Koreans had been using in the past.
The sanctions against North Korea have clearly failed to halt his weapons development efforts entirely, though they probably slowed Kim down a bit. The problem is that we already know the North Koreans have been skirting the sanctions with the help of both Russia and China, along with receiving at least tacit support from Iran. All that’s missing at this point are a few more successful tests of actual nuclear weapons. And since we know Kim has been working on improving his ICBMs during the “moratorium,” do you really doubt he’s been upgrading his nukes and miniaturizing them also?
It appears that North Korea is now truly a member of the global nuclear club with capabilities that could challenge any of his western adversaries. I don’t know if there was ever a way we could have stopped him short of direct military intervention, but the horses are out of the barn now. This is an ominous situation with no clear path toward a resolution in evidence.