By Josh Smith | Reuters
The missiles fired by North Korea on Wednesday were a test of a new “railway-carrying missile system” designed for possible counter-attacks by any force that threatens the country, state news agency KCNA reported Thursday.
According to KCNA, the missiles flew 497 miles before hitting a target at sea off the east coast of North Korea.
On Wednesday, South Korean and Japanese authorities said they had detected the launch of two ballistic missiles from North Korea, just days after testing a cruise missile that analysts said could have nuclear capability.
The North Korean launch comes on the same day that South Korea test-fired a submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM), becoming the first country without a nuclear weapon to develop such a system.
The two Koreas are in an increasingly heated arms race, with both sides unveiling more capable missiles and other weapons.
The nuclear test has raised international condemnation and concern, but the United States has said it violated UN Security Council resolutions and posed a threat to Pyongyang’s neighbors.
North Korea has consistently built its weapons system, increasing the risk of stalled talks aimed at destroying its nuclear and ballistic missile weapons in exchange for a waiver from US sanctions.
The KCNA report said the North Korean test was conducted by a railway-powered missile regiment that was organized earlier this year.
Pak Jung Chan, a member of the Presidium of the North Korean Marshal and Politburo, said, “The railway portable missile system can strike an effective counter-attack that is capable of dealing a severe multidimensional blow to the threatening forces.” The ruling Workers Party of Korea, which oversaw the test according to KCNA.
“Cheap and reliable”
The image, published in state media, shows an olive-green missile rising from the roof of a train standing on the tracks in a mountainous area above a pillar of smoke and flames.
South Korea said the missiles were fired from the central interior of Yangtze.
Adam Mount, a senior fellow at the Federation of American Scientists, said on Twitter, “Rail mobile missiles are a relatively inexpensive and reliable alternative for countries that want to improve their nuclear energy survival.” “Russia has done it. The United States has considered it. It makes a ton of money for North Korea.”
Mount and other analysts say the system is probably limited by North Korea’s relatively limited and sometimes unreliable rail network, but it could add another layer of complexity to track and destroy a foreign military before launching missiles.
According to KCNA, Pak said that in the near future there are plans to expand the Railway Missile Regiment into a brigade-sized force and train it to gain “operational experience for actual combat”.
The army should make a strategic plan to deploy the system in different parts of the country, Pak said.
Ankit Panda, a senior fellow at the US-based Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said it was unusual for North Korea to see the perfect diversification of missile delivery methods and launch platforms.
“It’s not very affordable (especially for an intensely resource-limited state) and much more efficient than a weak, vertically integrated force,” he said on Twitter.
The rail system unveiled on Wednesday could possibly pave the way for a larger, nuclear-armed intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) launch capability, Panda added.
He further added that some of the missile systems displayed by North Korea may be “technology demonstrations”, which may not be fully deployed.