Dressed in a black suit and hat, North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un proudly declared North Korea a “global military power” Thursday as he showed off his arsenal in a display of North Korean military might.
Thousands of goose-stepping North Korean troops, accompanied by tanks, missiles, and other war machines, marched through Kim Il Sung Square in Pyongyang Thursday, just one day before the start of the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea. The event was low-key compared to the April 15 parade held last year to mark the 105th anniversary of the birth of the North Korean founder, but it was nonetheless a substantial display of military power.
Organized for the 70th anniversary of the founding of the Korean People’s Army, the military parade held Thursday featured a handful of Hwasong-14 and Hwasong-15 intercontinental ballistic missiles, both of which were tested successfully last year. While the former is believed to be able to range parts, if not most, of the continental U.S., the latter is suspected to be more than capable of ranging the entire U.S. mainland, although more testing will likely be required before North Korea can do so reliably. The ICBMs were built to carry the hydrogen bomb North Korea tested successfully last year.
#NorthKorea Telling TELS – Today their new and successful tested ICBM were one parade but only the four Hwasong-15 were on TELs (Transporter, Erector, Launcher) with the Hwasong-14 on towed trailers pic.twitter.com/NEXhK5mwM2
— Joseph Dempsey (@JosephHDempsey) February 8, 2018
The Hwasong-14 ICBMs were towed on large trailers while the Hwasong-15s were carried on heavy trucks modified to serve as transporter erector launchers. The noticeable lack of additional TELs suggests that North Korea may have not yet overcome this particular development barrier, despite claims last year that it has mastered the ability to independently produce heavy launch vehicles for its ICBMs. Although North Korea has never shown more than six TELs, it is possible that it possesses more, which would mean that it could pursue mass production and deployment of nuclear-armed ICBMs, as Kim called for during his New Year address.
The six North Korean launch vehicles on display at this event and at past parades are modified WS51200 trucks imported from China, which refuses to send North Korea additional vehicles.
Also making an appearance at Thursday’s show of strength, was the Hwasong-12 intermediate-range ballistic missile, which the North twice fired over Japan into the Pacific Ocean last year.
Unlike last year’s parade, North Korea did not present the untested Hwasong-13 ICBM, the Pukguksong-1 submarine-launched ballistic missile, the failed Musudan IRBM, or any Scud-class missiles this time around.
The only possible new system is an apparent short-range ballistic missile that resembles the Russian Iskander or the Soviet-era Tochka. While there is a tendency to focus on the bigger missiles, an arsenal of numerous smaller weapons systems can overwhelm regional missile defense systems, potentially raising the threat level for North Korea’s neighbors.
“We will have to prevent aggressors from attempting to infringe or ridicule our dignity and sovereignty even by 0.001 millimeter,” Kim said in his speech. “As long as imperialism remains on the Earth and as long as the United States’ hostile policy on North Korea continues, the mission of our military, which is to protect our country and people and secure peace, can never change.”