With photographs obliquely showing a new rocket design, North Korea has sent a message that it is working on an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) more powerful than any it has previously tested, weapons experts said on Thursday.
If developed, such a missile could possibly reach any place on the U.S. mainland, including Washington and New York, they said.
North Korea’s state media published photographs late on Wednesday of leader Kim Jong Un standing next to a diagram of a three-stage rocket it called the Hwasong-13.
Missile experts, who carefully examine such pictures for clues about North Korea’s weapons programs, said there is no indication that the rocket has been fully developed. In any case, it had not been flight tested and it was impossible to calculate its potential range, they said.
However, a three-stage rocket would be more powerful than the two-stage Hwasong-14 ICBM tested on two occasions in July, they said. South Korean and U.S. officials and experts have said the Hwasong-14 possibly had a range of about 10,000 km (6,200 miles) and could strike many parts of the United States, but not the East Coast.
Why it’s on our radar: As a reminder, no news or information about anything related to North Korea’s weapons programs is publicized that Dear Leader Kim Jong-un does not want to be publicized; this is his way of sending a message to the world and potential North Korea enemies what threats it faces should they attempt to launch an attack.
Of course, showing a missile design and having an actual functioning missile are two different things and in that vein, it’s difficult to determine what progress, if any, Pyongyang has made on any new longer-range missile designs. That said, a missile with a range of 6,800 miles can reach New York City and Washington, D.C. And previous missile tests revealed that parts of the U.S. west coast may already be in range. The message here: North Korea is working on a design that will achieve the objective of putting the American capital within range of a nuclear weapon.