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Report: North Korea could unveil new ballistic missile capable of reaching US right before presidential election

North Korean ballistic missile. (Stefan Krasowski, Wikimedia Commons/Released)
September 03, 2020

A senior White House official and multiple U.S. intelligence officials, who spoke anonymously to The National Interest, say North Korea is set to unveil a new solid-fueled intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), capable of reaching the United States, by next month.

The National Interest reported North Korea will likely showcase the missile during its Oct. 10 military parade, celebrating the 75th anniversary of the Workers’ Party of Korea. If accurate, North Korea would be showcasing its new weapon less than a month before the November 3rd U.S. elections.

The White House official told The National Interest that an ICBM reveal “seems to be the most likely of scenarios based on their history—and it’s what we are expecting, but, of course, we are hoping to be proven wrong.”

North Korea already has two liquid-fuel based ICBM variants capable of reaching the U.S., the Hwasong-14 and Hwasong-15. While those ICBMs are mobile, they cannot normally be stored with their liquid fuel on board, and such fuel takes more time to prepare before a potential launch. With a solid-fuel system, North Korea can store their weapons with their fuel on board, in a ready-to-use state. This advantage would also allow North Korea to mobilize its missiles without having to arrange separate transports for fuel, giving missile mobilizations a lower profile that may not be detected the way a more resource-intensive liquid-fuel missile would.

The potential new ICBM reveal comes after denuclearization talks between President Donald Trump’s administration and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un stalled in the final months of 2019.

“As we have stated on numerous occasions, we strongly encourage North Korea to return to the path of dialogue and negotiation and refrain from all provocations,” the White House official said. “If they are looking for regime security, that is the only way they can ensure such a goal.”

After denuclearization talks stalled, North Korea warned in December that it would show a new “Christmas gift” to the U.S. which some U.S. military officials speculated could be a new weapon. While there was no obvious Christmas Day reveal, North Korea declared weeks later that 2020 would see the unveiling of a new “strategic weapon,” leading some North Korea observers to speculate advances in a solid-fuel system.

North Korea has conducted numerous missile tests throughout 2020 and has reportedly been testing solid-fuel systems for its missiles for several months. 

The National Interest speculated a reveal could serve two political purposes for North Korea. North Korea’s ICBM reveal could project strength to whichever candidate wins the U.S. presidential elections in November and could give North Korea a stronger footing in potential new rounds of negotiations. The weapon reveal could also shore up political support at home, where North Korea has been battling coronavirus, food shortages, flooding, typhoons and international sanctions