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N. Korea's May missile tests appear aimed at advancing solid fuel and guidance systems: CRS report

All Headlines 10:15 June 11, 2019

SEOUL, June 11 (Yonhap) -- North Korea's missile tests in May appear to be aimed at advancing solid fuel and guidance systems for its short-range ballistic missiles, according to a U.S. congressional report.

On May 4, North Korea test-fired a new type of tactical guided weapon, along with a barrage of projectiles, and launched two short-range missiles five days later. The North claimed they are part of its ordinary military drills to "inspect the ability of rapid reaction" of its defense units.

"Tests of the KN-23 short-range ballistic missile (SRBM) in May 2019 appear to be aimed at advancing solid fuel and guidance systems," the Congressional Research Service said in the report.

"North Korea appears to be making some progress in moving slowly toward solid rocket motors for its ballistic missiles. Solid fuel is a chemically more stable option that also allows for reduced reaction and reload times," it added.

Experts have said the missiles are the North Korean version of Iskander, a short-range ground-to-ground ballistic missile, but South Korea has not yet determined whether or not they're ballistic missiles banned under U.N. sanctions.

Critics say Seoul is reluctant to acknowledge the missiles' type over concern it could negatively affect the negotiating process with North Korea. U.S. President Donald Trump has also brushed off the North's missile launches as not a big deal.

A local media outlet recently reported that the U.S. Forces Korea (USFK) has tentatively concluded that Pyongyang fired the same type of new SRBMs during its May tests, and named them "KN-23."

The CRS report also speculated that North Korea is now focusing on developing a capability to neutralize missile defense systems.

"A recent focus in North Korea's ballistic missile test program appears to be directed at developing a capability to defeat or degrade the effectiveness of missile defenses, such as Patriot, Aegis BMD, and THAAD, all of which are or will be deployed in the region," it said.

kokobj@yna.co.kr
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