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Hermit Kingdom

North Korea’s Military Parade: Hwasong-16 Has Arrived?

Hwasong-16 ICBM
What appears to be a new Hwasong-16 ICBM.

Despite North Korea being hammered this year by three typhoons, constant food insecurity issues, international sanctions and now threats from COVID-19, the Kim regime has shown the world once again its long-range missile program will continue to advance with each passing day.

What Pyongyang has shown us, what appears to be a new liquid-fueled ICBM that seems to be a derivative of what was tested back in late 2017, known as the Hwasong-15, is much bigger and clearly more powerful than anything in the DPRK’s arsenal. In fact, this may end up being classified as the Hwasong-16 ICBM by western military analysts.

Such a massive road-mobile missile–likely the biggest such missile on the planet–would have the capability to add either increased range or be able to carry a bigger payload. Carrying a big payload would allow North Korea to do potentially three things:

1. Carry a larger and even deadlier nuclear weapon to a target, like a U.S. city or military base.

2. Utilize penetration aids to defeat U.S. missile defenses.

3. Potentially install multiple warheads in one missile, or what is called multiple independent reentry vehicles, or MIRV technology. This would allow North Korea to fire one missile and attack multiple different targets thanks to having several different warheads in the nosecone of the missile.

Hwasong-16

New what appears to be Hwasong-16 ICBM

While North Korea’s growing missile capabilities are surely concerning, I would argue the bigger worry is the clear lack of any Coronavirus safety measures such as masks or social distancing where thousands of people congregated. This parade could end up being the ultimate super spreader event if just a few people were to be infected.

Kim Jong-un clearly has put his people and ultimately himself at great risk as North Korea has very few tools to combat such a deadly virus as its healthcare system is one of the worst in the world. Ultimately, this foolish display could test the regime’s stability if the virus were to spread far and wide–an unforced error of perhaps historic magnitude. There is no missile worth showing off worth such a risk.

Written By

Harry J. Kazianis (@Grecianformula) serves as a Senior Director at the Center for the National Interest in Washington, D.C. Kazianis in the past served as Editor-In-Chief of the Diplomat and a national security-focused fellow at CSIS, the Potomac Foundation, and the University of Nottingham (UK).

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