Briefly: North Korea says it tested its ”most powerful” missile to date last Thursday, a claim substantiated by South Korean sources. The launch, which caused Japan to issue a brief evacuation order, likely involved a solid-fuel intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).
Solid-fuel missiles are easier to store, quicker to deploy and need less logistical support, making them harder to detect. This means they can maintain a high state of readiness, with the potential to launch within minutes rather than hours.
Intrigue’s take: The world already knew North Korean leader Kim Jong-un was working to build a solid-fuel ICBM: he rocket-teased us in December and February. But few observers expected to see a successful test launch so soon.
Leaked US intel this month suggests Kim may be overstating his weapons capabilities a little. But he’s clearly still making headway. And that gives him more leverage abroad, while helping him cling to power at home.
Also worth noting:
- Thursday’s missile launch comes shortly after the US and South Korea completed their biggest military drills in 5 years.
- North Korea is one of the poorest countries in the world, but commits around a quarter of its GDP to military spending.