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Everything we know about North Korea’s “strategic” cruise missiles

Ground-launched cruise missiles, described by the North Korean media as “a very important strategic weapon,” have been successfully tested, according to North Korean media. KCNA..New cruise missiles, the latest in long lines More and more advanced strategic nuclear weapons Developed by the North Korean administration, it has the potential to provide the country with significant new capabilities with low-flying fire-and-forget weapons that can attack anywhere in South Korea and even Japan. In this context, the use of the word “strategic” usually means carrying a nuclear warhead.

KCNA We reported that some examples of cruise missiles that have not yet been identified were tested on both Saturday and Sunday. Tactical short-range ballistic missile Tested.

North Korean state media

This four-main TEL attracted attention during the consecutive military parades in October and January last year. This has been suggested to be related to land-attack cruise missiles, but recent tests appear to involve another type of TEL with five tubes.

North Korean media said the missile flew 930 miles along its “oval, figure-eight flight trajectory” after 126 minutes of flight time before landing in North Korean waters.It reportedly took at least time to develop a new weapon 2 yearsHowever, there were some earlier hints that it was approaching testing.

According to the KCNA, the weekend test “has a strategic importance of owning another effective deterrent to more reliably guarantee the security of our nation and to strongly contain the military exercises of hostile forces. Is shown.

A pair of photos published by Labor newspaperThe official North Korean Workers Party newspaper shows missiles launched from a five-round truck-mounted transporter erector launcher (TEL) and missiles in cruising flight.The weapon itself has a strong similarity to Russia Kh-55 series cruise missiles, Especially around the tail, and composition is about the same as in the United States Tomahawk..

North Korean mass media

Official photo showing new cruise missiles launched from five TELs.

In response to the reported missile test, the United States Indo-Pacific Army (USINDOPACOM) released the following summary: statement:

“We know the North Korean report [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea] Cruise missile launch. We will continue to monitor the situation and work closely with our allies and partners. This activity highlights North Korea’s continued focus on developing military programs and the threat it poses to neighboring countries and the international community. The US commitment to the defense of the Republic of Korea and Japan remains a steel wall. “

Meanwhile, in Japan, Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato said the government was “concerned” about the press and would continue to work closely with the United States and South Korea to monitor the situation. South Korea also said it is working with the United States to analyze the situation.

So far, reports and photographs suggest that cruise missiles are likely intended to play a strategic role in carrying nuclear warheads. Thus, this weapon is the first type developed by North Korea, at least it is open to the public. The same conclusions have been put forward by analysts, including Ankit Panda, a senior researcher at the Carnegie Endowment for Peace in Washington, DC.

What is unclear so far is whether North Korea has already developed a nuclear warhead small enough to arm this class of weapons.Although there are persistent reports from North Korea Efforts to miniaturize nuclear warheadsIt is not easy to manufacture a typical cruise missile that can fit within the relatively small dimensions.

In fact, North Korea has announced a medium-range land-attack cruise missile. Large-scale military parade last October, When Again in January, Based on the tractor trailer configuration.However, the photos released with the test reported this weekend reveal a revised, articulated TEL vehicle that is clearly similar to the one previously associated. Large caliber guided rocket.. It has different axle configurations and different launch tubes, but now it’s five instead of four.

North Korean state media

This five-round TEL used for large caliber cannon rockets nevertheless shows some similarities to the TEL clearly used in recent cruise missile tests.

Meanwhile, in January of this year, North Korean Prime Minister Kim Jong Un announced in a speech at the Workers’ Party of Korea that he had developed a “medium-range cruise missile.”

The latest cruise missile test announcements are particularly timely and Meetings, meetings US, South Korean, and Japanese officials will discuss North Korea’s nuclear stalemate, which is set to begin in Tokyo. Negotiations with North Korea to lift US sanctions in exchange for nuclear concessions have been stalled since 2019.

It is possible that a weekend exam was scheduled in response to last month’s US-Korea joint exercise.These are already Predictable protest North Korean officials described the training as a “dangerous war exercise” that “further exacerbated the instability”, said Kim Yo-jong, deputy director of the Workers’ Party of Korea Central Committee.

Another North Korean cruise missile test took place in January, hours after US President Joe Biden took office.But in that case, it included a short-range weapon with no apparent nuclear capabilities, which reportedly was based on Russian design. Kh-35 anti-ship missile..

In particular, North Korea is not prohibited from developing conventional armed cruise missiles under the UN Security Council Resolution (UNSCR). Whether nuclear-armed cruise missiles violate the UNSCR is somewhat controversial, but as Unkit Panda observes, they should ban all types of nuclear weapon delivery systems.

However, since the nuclear negotiations broke down, North Korea has been promoting the development of nuclear weapons. Intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) and Submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) The design has been announced. In addition, a report from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) last month suggests that North Korea has restarted a nuclear reactor believed to supply plutonium to its nuclear weapons.

Meanwhile, in the South, efforts are underway to develop weapons that can attack the North without a nuclear warhead. For example, last week it was reported that South Korea conducted the first underwater discharge test of SLBM from one of its submarines.You can read more about the program here..

If Pyongyang is actually developing a nuclear-capable land-attack cruise missile, it will offer important new capabilities alongside its ballistic missiles. Cruise missiles are much slower than ballistic missiles, but they are easy to transport and conceal, and launches are usually difficult to detect. In addition, depending on the guidance system available, this type of cruise missile may be able to evade enemy air defenses.Weapons of this class are typically assigned to attack high-value targets such as air defense and communications nodes, bridges and dams, and even larger warships, and their defenses are Growing concerns about the United States And that ally is more general.

In conflict scenarios, the ability to deploy cruise missiles can be used to further saturate the enemy’s defenses, with potentially large salvos of such weapons arriving unexpectedly from different directions. It would be even more confusing as it is not clear whether the cruise missile was equipped with a nuclear warhead or a conventional warhead. The potential threat posed by a large number of highly mobile North Korean cruise missiles could also detain a significant portion of the Republic of Korea Air Force’s assets if South Korea launches operations to neutralize them. ..

North Korean mass media

View of the new North Korean cruise missile in flight.

Cruise missiles, adopted as a means of launching nuclear warheads, may also have other special benefits for North Korea. So far, one of the key uncertainties about North Korea’s ability to carry nuclear weapons is whether it can actually properly fuse and explode nuclear weapons as part of the final stages of a ballistic missile attack. Due to its extremely high speed, this is a very complex procedure and a challenge that can be removed when using cruise missiles.

In addition, the development of practical land-attack cruise missile designs may serve other uses. Most clearly, such cruise missiles can be adapted for use in the Navy or air-launch.On board-or Submarine launch Navy derivatives of such weapons appear to be much more likely, and North Korea reportedly pursued secret air-launched cruise missile programs investigated in the past. Use of air-launch derivatives Of naval missiles for that fleet Il-28 bomberAccording to, there are about 80 of them Flight international..

The South Korean army does not have its own nuclear warhead, Attack plan In the case of the war with the North, it is known to be characterized by the use of ballistic missiles, cruise missiles, and air-launched weapons.Korean Tenryu-3 Cruise missiles can be launched from ground-based launchers or sea-based platforms, depending on the version. The longest range, the Hyunmoo-3C, is reported to have a range of 930 miles, the same as due to the new North Korean missile.

Therefore, cruise missiles are already a hallmark of the military balance of the Korean Peninsula, but nuclear-armed weapons in this category are new developments and can have significant implications. But above all, how it will affect the distressed nuclear negotiations with North Korea and how the United States will respond to this latest addition to Pyongyang’s expanding strategic capabilities. still unknown.

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