Date
20 September 2017
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un looks at a rocket warhead tip after a simulated test of atmospheric re-entry of a ballistic missile. Photo: Reuters
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un looks at a rocket warhead tip after a simulated test of atmospheric re-entry of a ballistic missile. Photo: Reuters

North Korea lifts veil on arms program for first time

North Korea is revealing unprecedented details of its weapons development program for the first time.

The move showcases its push to develop long-range nuclear missiles despite international sanctions and comes ahead of a rare ruling party congress next month, Reuters reports.

Until recently, foreign governments and experts have had to rely on satellite imagery to collect information on Pyongyang nuclear program.

In just over a month, the North has published articles with technicolor photographic detail on a range of tests and other activities that point to fast-paced efforts to build a nuclear-armed intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).

Pyongyang believes convincing the world and its own people of its nuclear prowess is as important as the prowess itself, analysts said.

Nevertheless, North Korea’s true capabilities and intentions remain unknown.

“Close-up pictures of ground test activities are almost unprecedented,” John Schilling, an aerospace engineer specializing in satellite and launch vehicle propulsion systems, told Reuters.

“The openness suggests that the underlying strategy is as much diplomatic as military: it is important to Pyongyang not only that they have these capabilities but that we believe they have these capabilities,” Schilling said.

In its latest revelations, North Korean state media reported on Saturday that the country had carried out a successful test of a new ICBM engine.

Pictures showed what experts said were the engines of two Soviet-designed R-27 missiles clustered together, ejecting two exhaust plumes.

The claims indicate the North has no intention of slowing down, despite last month’s United Nations sanctions and stern warnings from Washington and elsewhere, said Michael Elleman, a US-based rocket expert with the International Institute for Strategic Studies.

“The revelations, pronouncements and ‘tests’ appear to be part of a campaign to establish the narrative that Pyongyang has, or will soon have, a nuclear-armed, long-range missile that could threaten the US mainland,” he said.

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