On Sunday, North Korean state media reported that leader Kim Jong Un had supervised the test of a new type of ballistic missile on Saturday. The test took place off a beach near the city of Hamhung, where North Korea is thought to manufacture components for its ballistic missiles—especially those using solid propellants.
According to the South Korean military, two ballistic missile launches had been detected early on Saturday morning, at 5:34 a.m. and 5:50 a.m. local time respectively. The missiles each flew to a range of 400 km, exhibiting an in-flight apogee of 48 km. The speed of the missiles was reported to have been 6.1 times the speed of sound or greater, according to South Korea’s military.
The new missile appears to be a canisterized, short-range, solid-fuel ballistic missile. It was launched from an integrated transporter-erector-launcher vehicle that had tracks, allowing it to go off-road.
Kim “said that the new weapon which was developed to suit the terrain condition of our country and as required by the Juche-oriented war methods has advantageous tactical character different to the existing weapon systems,” according to a paraphrase of his comments by the Korean Central News Agency, North Korea’s externally oriented state media.
“The detailed analysis of the test-fire result proved that the new weapon system’s advantageous and powerful demand of the design was perfectly met.”
The missile and its launcher bear a resemblance to the U.S. Army’s MGM-140 Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS) missile system. The North Korean version appears to be a larger missile.
The launches mark the continuation of a rapid testing campaign that began in July with tests of the KN23 short-range ballistic missile, a system that bears several similarities to the newly tested missile. The KN23 bears an external resemblance to Russia’s 9M723 Iskander-M short-range ballistic missile.
Additionally, Kim Jong Un has carried out two launches of a new “large-caliber” multiple launch rocket system (MLRS). The focus on short-range missile testing came ahead of the planned start of U.S.-South Korea military exercises.
North Korea has heavily criticized those exercises, which are expected to continue through August 20.
Saturday’s test event was the eleventh overall in 2019. Kim had conducted the test of an unspecified “tactical” weapon in April, followed by two initial tests of the KN23 in May. The KN23 saw two more test events in July, followed by a test of the new MLRS. The MLRS was tested a second time in the first days of August, followed by the eventual launch of this new missile.
In July, Kim also inspected a new ballistic missile submarine under construction at the northeastern shipyard at Sinpo.