Experts suggest that North Korea might launch solid-fueled intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM) on October 10 to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Workers’ Party of Korea.
“U.S. government officials are increasingly concerned that North Korea could unveil a new type of long-range ballistic missile capable of striking the U.S. homeland with a nuclear weapon, raising tensions just weeks before the presidential election in November,” Harry J. Kazianis, Senior Director for Korean Studies at the Center for the National Interest (CNI), wrote in a recent article on National Interest. “A senior White House official, as well as multiple U.S. intelligence officials I have spoken with over the last few days, strongly suspect Pyongyang will unveil a solid-fueled intercontinental-range ballistic missile.”
If Pyongyang successfully launches solid-fueled ICBMs, it would represent a leap in its long-range missile technology. Solid-fueled missiles are more reliable and harder to detect and can be launched faster as solid fuel does not require long preparation times. Experts on North Korea say that the “new strategic weapon” North Korean leader Kim Jong Un threatened the world with is highly likely to be solid-fueled ICBMs.
“North Korea is trying to increase the size of its ICBM capabilities, maybe even move to an SLBM,” said Robert Soofer, deputy assistant secretary of defense for nuclear and missile defense policy, adding that Washington is focusing on building multi-layered defense such as by modernizing the Ground Base Interceptor (GBI) system in order to respond to the threat.
Against this backdrop, the United States launched unarmed Minuteman III ICBMs on Wednesday at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. The second test launch comes in a month after it fired the same missiles on August 4, following the U.N. report that found it is probable Pyongyang has developed miniaturized nuclear weapons. LGM-30 Minuteman III ICBMs can travel more than 12,000 kilometers carrying three nuclear heads that weigh up to 450 kilotons and target them at three different targets at the same time. Two test launches of LGM-30 Minuteman III ICBMs in a month are seemingly intended to send a warning message to North Korea and China that refuse to give up on developing nuclear devices.