- At a military parade on Thursday, North Korea showed off a mystery missile that nobody had seen before.
- Some experts think it looks like a newer Russian missile, which could suggest Moscow is giving covert aid to Pyongyang. Another expert said it looked like a South Korean design.
- The missile poses a big problem for US forces in South Korea and could have devastating effects if used.
North Korea’s military parade on Thursday featured much of what we’ve come to expect from Pyongyang: grandiose speeches, choreographed crowds, and a procession of missiles.
But it also featured a mystery missile never before seen.
While many analysts have focused on the big intercontinental ballistic missiles like the Hwasong-14 and the Hwasong-15 – and the threat they pose to the US mainland – a smaller missile slipped by relatively unnoticed.
Here are a few shots of the new system:
Take a look at the Iskander:
- Boevaya mashina via Wikimedia Commons
Justin Bronk, a military expert at the Royal United Services Institute, told Business Insider that North Korea’s mystery missiles looked “enormously like Iskander missiles” and were not ones that North Korea had “been seen with before.”
Bronk pointed out that Russia has a history of helping North Korea with its missile program. Talented engineers left unemployed after the collapse of the Soviet Union and often found good-paying work in North Korea, Bronk said.
But the Iskander isn’t a Cold War design. If Russia collaborated with North Korea as recently as the Iskander, it would have huge geopolitical implications and strain the US’s already fraught relationship with Russia.
The new missile, however, is not confirmed to be a Russian design.
Mike Elleman, a missile expert at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, said it was “inconsistent with the Iskander” and was just as likely a clone of South Korea’s Hyunmoo-2 missile system. (North Korea has in the past been found to obtain South Korean defense information through hacking.)
Regardless of its origin, the little missile may be a big problem for the US
- REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji
Regardless of where the information for the mystery missile came from, it poses a major threat to US forces in South Korea and the region.
Bronk said North Korea’s existing fleet of ballistic missiles didn’t have the accuracy of more-modern systems like the Iskander. If North Korea were to deploy the newer, more accurate ballistic missiles, that could lay the groundwork for an opening salvo of an attack on South Korea that could blindside and cripple the US.
US missile defenses could become overwhelmed with a large number of precise short-range missiles, which the mystery missile appears to be. US military bases, airfields, and depots could fall victim to the missile fire within the first few minutes of a conflict.
Whatever the mystery missile’s origin, its appearance is likely to have geopolitical and tactical implications for the US’s push to denuclearize Pyongyang.