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N. Korea's new ICBM estimated to deliver payload of 2.5-3 tons: expert

All News 18:35 October 22, 2020

SEOUL, Oct. 22 (Yonhap) -- A new intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) that North Korea unveiled at a military parade earlier this month is estimated to be able to deliver a payload of about 2.5-3 tons, a missile defense expert has said.

In an analysis posted on 38 North, a U.S. website monitoring North Korea, Michael Elleman, senior fellow for missile defense at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, also raised the need to question the authenticity of the ICBM given Pyongyang's history of introducing "fake" missiles at celebratory parades.

During the Oct. 10 parade celebrating the 75th anniversary of the founding of the ruling Workers' Party, the North presented the presumptive Hwasong-16 ICBM on a transporter erector launcher (TEL) with 22 wheels -- an indication that it is longer than the Hwasong-15 ICBM carried by a 18-wheel TEL.

The larger ICBM has triggered speculation that it could deliver a heavier warhead or multiple ones that could target the U.S. mainland.

"The plot suggests the Hwasong-16 can deliver a payload of about 2,500 to 3,000 kg to any target on the US mainland, which is almost double the Hwasong-15's throw-weight of about 1,500 kg," Elleman said, referring to the figure in the analysis that shows the estimate.

The expert pointed out that while the new missile may have the thrust to carry a heavy payload, its mobility is going to be "severely" limited by its tremendous size and weight. He also said that the missile is "too heavy and brittle" to be transported safely when fully fueled.

"So (the missile) must be fueled at the launch site after it has been erected—a process that requires several hours to complete. Consequently, the missile would be vulnerable to pre-launch attack," he said.

Touching on the possibility of the North working on the technology for multiple interdependently targetable re-entry vehicles (MIRV), Elleman said that it is "no easy task" and will require further development of missile and guidance systems and significant flight testing.

The expert pointed out that in a 2012 military parade, the North unveiled poorly built mock-ups of a long-range missile.

"North Korea has a history of introducing 'fake' missiles during celebratory parades, so it is appropriate to question the authenticity of the Hwasong-16 presented earlier this month," he said.

sshluck@yna.co.kr
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