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Allies view N. Korea's ICBM launch as involving Hwasong-15, not new missile: sources

All News 13:58 March 27, 2022

SEOUL, March 27 (Yonhap) -- South Korea and the United States regard North Korea as having disguised its launch of an existing intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) last week as that of a new larger one, informed sources said Sunday.

The allies believe that the North again tested a Hwasong-15 ICBM on Thursday, the same type it fired in late 2017, according to the sources. The North has publicly claimed success in the launch of a Hwasong-17 missile.

Their intelligence analysis suggested that like the Hwasong-15, the ICBM in question had two engine nozzles, whereas the Hwasong-17 has four nozzles. The engine combustion time of the first-stage rocket was also similar to that of the Hwasong-15.

The analysis was based on data from the allies' intelligence assets, including from a satellite equipped with infrared thermal sensors.

A Hwasong-17 intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) is launched from Pyongyang International Airport on March 24, 2022, in this photo released by North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency. The North's leader Kim Jong-un approved the launch, and the missile traveled up to a maximum altitude of 6,248.5 kilometers and flew a distance of 1,090 km before falling into the East Sea, the KCNA said. (For Use Only in the Republic of Korea. No Redistribution) (Yonhap)

The South Korean military said that in the latest test, the ICBM -- fired at a lofted angle -- traveled some 1,080 km at an apogee of over 6,200 km.

It represented progress given that the Hwasong-15 missile flew some 960 km at a top altitude of around 4,500 km in the 2017 launch.

But the military authorities here downplayed the projectile fired last week as an apparent Hwasong-15 missile with a lighter warhead designed to appear to have flown like the longer-range Hwasong-17.

Questions over the North's claim about its latest ICBM launch emerged as the North's photo of the latest launch showed the missile shot up in a clear blue sky in Pyongyang though it was cloudy in the North Korean capital at the time of the launch.

Observers said the North might have used a photo of an earlier ICBM test in its state media report on the purported Hwasong-17 launch.

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