The projectiles were fired at some time between 6.45 and 6.50am on Saturday, a statement issued by South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said. Launched from an area in the west of the country, they flew 410 kilometers (255 miles). The analysis, undertaken by Michael Elleman for the 38 North website, includes pictures showing missiles apparently crashing into a rocky outcrop off the coast of the Hermit State.
Mr Elleman said the tests were the fifth and sixth in respect of the KN-24, a single-stage, solid-fuel missile which closely resembles a larger copy of the US MGM-140 Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS)
He added: “The fact that the two KN-24s were launched only five minutes apart, an improvement from the roughly 15-minute separation between coupled firings of August 9 and 15, 2019, is consistent with a system developed for warfighting missions.”
If the pictures were genuine, they suggested the missiles were accurate to within 100 metres, Mr Elleman said.
As for Kim’s future intentions, he explained: “The KN-24 is likely in its late-development phase based on North Korea’s prior practice of deploying missiles to military units after only a handful of tests.
“After Saturday’s fifth and sixth known tests of the KN-24, it is easy to judge the missile very nearly combat ready, or soon to be operationally deployed.”
After the tests, Kim Jong Un was reported as saying: “The new-type weapon systems which we have recently developed and the tactical and strategic weapons systems in the development stage will make decisive contributions to the realisation of the Party’s strategic plan to make a radical change in the national defence strategy.”
However, Mr Elleman said in reality it was difficult to determine whether Kim considers the KN-24 to be a strategic one – ie capable of carrying nuclear warheads – or a tactical, typically conventional one.
Mr Elleman said: “If the KN-24 is a near-clone of the US ATACMS, which has a diameter of 610 mm, the missile’s payload compartment is too narrow to accommodate the roughly 600-mm-diameter, spherical nuclear explosive device North Korea displayed in February 2017.
“In order to fit the 600-mm-diameter nuclear weapon into the warhead section, which is roughly 20 percent narrower than the missile’s diameter, the KN-24’s main body must be at least 700 mm, perhaps as large as 750 mm.
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We cannot dismiss the possibility that, at a future date, Pyongyang will look to make the KN-24 dual capable
“This would be consistent with estimated dimensions based on the KN-24’s maximum range during testing.
“While the KN-24 is likely larger than ATACMS, and large enough to carry a North Korean nuclear device, it is far from clear if North Korea intends to arm the missile with nuclear weapons.
“However, it seems apparent that we cannot dismiss the possibility that, at a future date, Pyongyang will look to make the KN-24 dual capable.”
After the tests, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) issued a statement in which it condemned the move.
A spokesman said: “We are disappointed that North Korea has carried out a short range ballistic missile launch, a clear breach of UN Security Council resolutions and the sixteenth ballistic missile test in the past year.
“We call for the complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearisation of the DPRK.
“Until we see credible steps towards this goal, sanctions must continue to be enforced.”
Seoul branded the tests “very inappropriate” at a time when the world is facing the threat of COVID-19.
Pyong Yang has also showcased what it claims to be a“super large” multiple rocket launcher, which experts believe was tested earlier this month.
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