North Korea announced on Friday that it succeeded in test-launching the Hwasongpo-18 ICBM using solid fuel. The state media reported that they could verify anomalous maneuvering of the ICBM that can adjust missile trajectory, speed, and range, such as setting the first-stage booster at a normal angle while setting the second and third stages at a high angle. The North's leader Kim Jong Un threatened to make his enemies suffer from anxiety and fear by tirelessly responding to them with fatal and aggressive attacks.
North Korea's new solid-thermal ICBM shows that its nuclear threat has entered into a new level of risk, which the regime claims will serve as the leading primary means for the regime's strategic armed forces. The solid-thermal ICBM can neutralize preemptive strike capability enabled by advanced detection and launch a surprise attack targeting U.S. soil by launching stealthily from anywhere, at any time. The new missile can also be anomalously maneuvered, which means it is a threatening weapon that may bypass a missile defense system.
The North is likely to conduct further launchings of its new Hwasong-18s to advance solid fuel and sophisticate stage separation technology. On top of that, the regime will apparently channel all its efforts in developing multiple independently targetable reentry vehicles (MIRVs), practically the final stage of such missile development. In celebration of the Day of the Sun, the birthday of its founding father Kim Il Sung, North Korea will wage a full-blown propaganda campaign both locally and overseas while continuing ceaselessly with a cascade of intense provocations, including military recon satellite launch at the end of April as previously warned, a 7th nuclear test that can be conducted anytime and even firing of long-range missiles into the Pacific.
Such provocations by undeterred North Korea can only aggravate tensions and confrontation on the Korean Peninsula. The North could rapidly advance its nuclear and missile capabilities for quite some time because it could act without restraint in provoking under the safeguard of China and Russia, which have been keeping close ties due to the U.S.-China conflict and the Russian invasion of Ukraine. It is highly likely that North Korea will stay belligerent, placing itself to be the puppet of the two authoritarian states heading toward the era of a new Cold War.
No denuclearization strategy or policies toward the North would work if North Korea remains hostile and confrontational like now. It is high time that the existing policy approach toward North Korea should be thoroughly reviewed. We need to go beyond military containment and further deterrence via the alliance with the U.S. and tripartite cooperation with the U.S. and Japan to a far-reaching long-term plan to contain the regime on all fronts including international relations and economy. We need a well-thought-out strategy to address North Korea's threat, with a particular emphasis on gaining support from China and Russia. By doing so, we could increase pressure on the regime and make it feel the consequences of its actions through isolation. Hopefully, the ROK-U.S. Summit meeting scheduled at the end of this month will produce a rough blueprint for a new strategy.