On August 10, North Korea conducted its sixth missile test as the United States and South Korea began their long-planned, yet much scaled-down, joint military exercises. In response to the drills, Pyongyang has also made itself clear that it would be compelled to “seek a new road” if Washington and South Korea were to continue to “sharpen a sword” against the regime.
But the truth is North Korea has already been paving its “new road” for quite some time now. Despite the tightening sanctions imposed on the regime since 2017, intended to suffocate its weapons of mass destruction programs, it continues to surprise the world with even more sophisticated weapons.
Disregarding all the growing concerns among the international community, U.S. President Donald Trump has continually downplayed the recent missile launches. He stated that short-range missiles are not nuclear and “very standard”—i.e., something that many other countries test as well. While some might concur with this underestimation just because they are not nuclear, what those weapons are actually capable of should intimidate analysts and policymakers a bit more. In a nutshell, they could make South Korean defense systems obsolete.
On May 4 this year, Northeast Asian security was again challenged by Pyongyang’s series of projectile and new short-range ballistic missile launches. Amidst these tests was the collapse in negotiations after the failed Hanoi summit in February. What follows is a break down of those systems.
The first two projectiles were reported to have featured two types of large-caliber, multiple launch rocket systems (MLRS)—the 240mm and 300mm MLRS.
The 240mm MLRS rockets, often stationed in semi-hardened artillery sites, have been part of the DPRK’s arsenal since 1985. With an estimated range of about 25 to 31 miles, they are capable of carrying a relatively small warhead of about 100 pounds. According to an analysis based on photographs released by KCNA, the weapons are most likely powered by a smokeless, double-based solid fuel. Without any form of guidance, the 240mm MLRS systems would be used mainly to carry out saturation attacks on large targets such as frontline military bases and urban areas.