Pyongyang’s recent test is step forward

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Pyongyang’s recent test is step forward

A senior government official in Seoul who has knowledge of North Korea’s latest missile test told the JoongAng Ilbo Tuesday that local authorities believe Pyongyang significantly enhanced its target capabilities last Monday by attaching a canard and “optical equipment” of some sort to the projectile.

A canard is a small wing-like projection that helps a missile steer towards its intended target.

The source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said Seoul officials were not sure at this point whether the optical equipment North Korea attached to its latest missile was a camera or a laser, adding that further analysis was ongoing.

If the assessments are correct, they would support North Korea’s claim on Tuesday that it successfully conducted a missile launch using a “precision guidance system.”

The regime’s state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported that the missile was “loaded with fin-controlled warhead in the active-flying section” and “reconfirmed the accuracy of the velocity correction and altitude stabilization system by a small heat jet engine in the middle-flying section.”

The KCNA said that the missile was a medium-range missile and that it landed only seven meters (23 feet) from its target. This was a denial of reports by South Korean and American militaries that North Korea fired a short-range Scud missile Monday. A North Korean Scud missile is known to have the capacity to fly 500 kilometers (311 miles), while a mid-range missile can travel 1,000 to 3,000 kilometers.

The official who spoke with the JoongAng Ilbo questioned whether the missile landed seven meters from its target, but admitted that the North appears to have considerably improved in recent tests. “We used to see North Korea shooting Scud-missiles that landed as much as 900 meters from their targets,” said the source. “These days, that has come down to 190 meters.” The official credited the advancement to the use of optical equipment and a canard.

In the KCNA dispatch Tuesday, leader Kim Jong-un, who reportedly ordered and observed the missile launch, was said to have expressed satisfaction “over the fact that its preparatory process before launching was more automated than the preceding” Hwasong missiles, which would “reduce the launching time so as to rapidly contain enemies’ armed provocations.”

If true, this could challenge South Korea’s Kill Chain system, which works by Seoul carrying out a pre-emptive strike against a North Korean missile thought to be heading for the South. This was Pyongyang’s ninth missile test this year, and third since the inauguration of South Korean President Moon Jae-in.

The Scud missile was fired at 5:39 a.m. Monday from the eastern coast city of Wonsan, Kangwon Province, traveling 450 kilometers after peaking at an altitude of 120 kilometers, according to local military officials.

BY JEONG YONG-SOO, LEE CHUL-JAE AND LEE SUNG-EUN [lee.sungeun@joongang.co.kr]

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