SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA – North Korea’s new intercontinental ballistic missile, unveiled at a military parade last week, appears designed to overwhelm U.S. missile defenses, security analysts say, a development that may spur the U.S. to add costly new interceptors.
The massive ICBM, the largest ever displayed by North Korea, is likely the “new strategic weapon” promised by the country’s leader, Kim Jong Un, at the beginning of the year.
The missile has not been flight-tested and its range is unknown, but North Korea has little need to prove its missiles can go farther; it already tested an ICBM in 2017 that can reach anywhere in the continental United States.
Instead, analysts say, North Korea is likely trying to show it can fit multiple nuclear warheads on a single ICBM, making it much more difficult and costly for U.S. missile defense systems to intercept.
“If you have multiple warheads coming out of that single missile, you now have to have multiple interceptors for each incoming warhead,” said Melissa Hanham, who closely tracks North Korea’s weapons program and is deputy director of the Vienna-based Open Nuclear Network.
The new ICBM, Hanham said, appears large enough to not only fit multiple warheads but also decoys, known as penetration aids, which could confuse missile defense systems.
“It’s not cheap to make missiles like this, but it’s a lot cheaper than what the U.S. is now going to spend on missile defense,” Hanham added.
Missile defense has always been risky, as it is cheaper and