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Asia-Pacific , Missile and Space

North Korea Tests Hwasong-15 Intercontinental Ballistic Missile

November 29th - 2017

In the early morning of November 29th 2017 North Korea tested its latest and farthest reaching intercontinental ballistic missile, the Hwasong-15, allegedly capable of delivering nuclear warheads across to the entire U.S. mainland. While Western analysts were surprised by the country's 71 day respite from missile tests, with the announcement of the unscheduled Vigilant Ace military drills by the United States North Korea has has per usual responded with missile tests. The country's latest launch demonstrates the extent to which the its missile program has advanced in 2017 alone. While at the beginning of 2017 the Hwasong series of missiles were relatively unknown, they have in a matter of months of successful testing been developed into the most potent of arm of North Korea's long range deterrence force. In May 2017 the Hwasong-12 was successfully tested with an estimated range of up to 6000km, allowing the country to target Guam and U.S. facilities across the Pacific. The Hwasong-14, an ICBM successfully tested twice in July 2017, further gave North Korea a reliable platform capable of striking much of the U.S. mainland, including major east coast cities such as Los Angeles, as well as being well within range of the U.S. Pacific Command in Hawaii. The ability of the Hwasong series of missiles to deploy from transport erector launchers, unlike the somewhat cumbersome Taepodong-2, makes the significantly more survivable and difficult to eliminate before launch.

With the United States maintaining an arsenal of several thousand nuclear weapons within range of North Korea, and for years threatening preventative nuclear strikes on the country, the rapid development of the Hwasong missiles comes as a result of North Korea's goal of gaining some form of nuclear parity with the US. With more details on the Hwasong-15's capabilities yet to emerge, the missile indicates that North Korea seeks to be able to strike the entire U.S. mainland to strengthen its deterrent capabilities - as it believes that only such a capability can guarantee its security against the military superpower. Should it succeed in doing so, it would represent the first time in history that a small state has managed to deter a major nuclear superpower without support from a superpower patron of its own. This has been the vital goal of the North Korean military ever since it lost the support of the USSR in 1991 - and today the country appears on the brink of success.

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