Newly released photos appear to reveal unexpected advances in North Korea’s missile program, experts say, including a previously unseen type of projectile.
On Wednesday, North Korean state media KCNA announced leader Kim Jong Un had visited the country’s Chemical Material Institute of the Academy of Defense Sciences.
“He instructed the institute to produce more solid-fuel rocket engines and rocket warhead tips by further expanding engine production process,” the statement said.
But it was the photos of the inspection released by state media which missile analysts seized upon immediately.
One photo of Kim reveals a poster on the wall clearly mentioning a missile called “Pukguksong-3,” a potential successor to the previous two versions of the missile which were both solid-fuel, medium-range projectiles.
North Korea’s desire to build solid-fuel missiles is driven by their need for projectiles they can launch quickly and subtly, said Michael Duitsman, also a research associate at the James Martin Center.
“Solid fuel missiles are much faster to deploy … a solid fuel missile is always fueled so all they have to do is drive it to the place they want to launch it,” he said.
“It’s much easier to put into action, much harder to catch before it launches because they’re a lot less in terms of launch preparations that could be done.”
When the US Navy first switched to the lighter casing during the 1960s their missiles flew an additional 500 miles, an increase of about 50 per cent, Duitsman said. “They also switched the propellant (though),” he added.
Schlermer said it was unlikely that either the revelation of the new missiles or the filament casing were a mistake by Pyongyang.