When it comes to North Korean missile launches – and much else about the secretive country – all may not be as it seems. Days after the regime claimed it had successfully tested its biggest intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), South Korea said it believed the launch had been faked.
The “monster missile”, the South’s military said, was in fact a Hwasong-15 – a smaller projectile previously tested in 2017, the last time Pyongyang fired missiles potentially capable of striking anywhere on the US mainland. Even if last week’s launch, accompanied by a slick PR video showing the country’s leader, Kim Jong-un, in a black leather jacket and aviator shades, was not of the more powerful Hwasong-17, there is agreement that the weapon flew further and higher than any other in the history of Pyongyang’s missile tests.
The timing is significant, coming as US president Joe Biden’s attention is on the war in Ukraine – a reminder that North Korea’s sanctions-busting development of ballistic missiles and nuclear weapons is continuing with alarming speed.