The U.S. Congressional Research Service defined three projectiles launched by North Korea on May 4 and 9 as “KN-23 short-range ballistic missiles (SRBMs).” The CRS report said the tests appeared to be aimed at defeating missile interception systems by advancing solid fuel and guidance systems. While the U.S. forces, as well as the U.S. Congress, have defined the projectiles launched by North Korea as ballistic missiles intended for attacks, the South Korean forces have remained silent stating that they are under analysis.
“North Korea appears to be making some progress in moving slowly toward solid rocket motors for its ballistic missiles,” said the newly updated CRS report titled “North Korea’s Nuclear and Ballistic Missile Programs” released on June 6. “Solid fuel is a chemically more stable option that also allows for reduced reaction and reload times,” the report added. The CRS is a public policy research arm of the United States Congress established in 1914. It is recognized as one of the most reliable think tanks in the U.S. for having conducted bipartisan research led by top-level experts in various fields.
With regards to North Korea’s dismantlement of a rocket engine test stand at the Sohae satellite launch complex in Tongchang-ri, Cholsan County, North Pyongan Province, the CRS report said that some observers “have suggested the stand was no longer needed for liquid fuel engines, as North Korea may be opting instead to test and deploy solid rocket motors for their missiles.” The report also pointed out that a recent focus in North Korea’s ballistic missile tests, including 26 tests in 2016 and 18 tests in 2018, appeared to be directed at developing a capability to defeat or degrade the effectiveness of missile defenses, such as THAAD.