SEOUL: North Korea showed off a gigantic new intercontinental ballistic missile on Saturday that analysts described as the largest of its kind in the world, as the nuclear-armed country defied the coronavirus threat with thousands of maskless troops taking part in a military parade.
The ICBM, carried on a transporter-erector-launcher with no fewer than 11 axles, rolled through Kim Il Sung square as leader Kim Jong Un watched from a rostrum, footage from state broadcaster KCTV showed.
It was the “largest road-mobile liquid-fueled missile anywhere” tweeted Ankit Panda of the Federation of American Scientists.
Nuclear negotiations between Pyongyang and Washington have been deadlocked since the collapse of the Hanoi summit early last year and the North is widely believed to have continued to develop its arsenal throughout the diplomatic process.
It already launched missiles with the range to reach anywhere in the continental US in 2017, but analysts suggested the new weapon could have multiple re-entry vehicle capabilities, helping it evade US defence systems.
The missile could see its first test around the time of the inauguration of the next US presidential term, as a signal to either Donald Trump or Joe Biden.
The ICBM was preceded earlier by the Pukguksong-4a, a new submarine-launched missile that would add another dimension to Pyongyang’s arsenal, which it says it needs to deter a US invasion.
Kim — wearing a grey suit — told the crowd Pyongyang “will continue to strengthen our military for self-defence and deterrence”.
“If you don’t have the strength, you’ll have to wipe away the tears and blood that flow with your two clenched fists,” he added.
Women in the crowd wiped tears from their eyes as he spoke, the footage showed.
The widely anticipated display was part of commemorations of the 75th anniversary of the North’s ruling Workers’ Party, and according to Seoul’s joint chiefs of staff took place early on Saturday, several hours before it was broadcast.
South Korean and US intelligence agencies were “closely tracking the event”, they added.
At the end of December, Kim threatened to demonstrate a “new strategic weapon”, but analysts say Pyongyang will still tread carefully to avoid jeopardising its chances with Washington ahead of next month’s presidential election.
Published in Dawn, October 11th, 2020