SEOUL- North Korea on Thursday (Nov 30) released photos of its new intercontinental ballistic missile, which features a different shape from the previous version, reported Yonhap news agency.
The front part of the Hwasong-15 intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) is round shaped and relatively blunt. The nose of of the Hwasong-14 missile, also an ICBM, is sharp, according to a photograph published by the Rodong Sinmun, a newspaper of the Workers' Party of Korea, and monitored online here.
The new Hwasong-15, named after the planet Mars, was a more advanced version of the Hwasong-14 ICBM tested twice in July,
The new ICBM was shown on a transporter erector launcher (TEL) with nine wheels on each side, indicating the new one is longer than the Hwasong-14 which was seen on 16-wheel TEL. The mobile launchers are designed to allow the missile to be fired from a wider number of areas to prevent it from being intercepted before launch.
But US intelligence analysts have concluded from satellite and other data that the test missile was fired from a fixed position, not a mobile launcher, three US officials was quoted as saying by Reuters.
Two of the officials said the test appears to demonstrate a more powerful North Korean solid-fuel propulsion system, especially in its second stage rocket.
Wednesday's firing was the second time North Korea fired a ICBM under the cover of darkness. Its second ICBM test was conducted at 11.41pm on July 29.
Rodong Sinmun also made public more than a dozen other photos of the new ICBM launch early Wednesday morning, including those of leader Kim Jong Un giving a "field guidance" at the launch site north of Pyongyang.
He pumped his fist, monitoring flight data on a screen and celebrating the successful launch, along with his aides.
Kim had earlier said the test on Wednesday (Nov 29) of the Hwasong-15 weapons system had helped his country achieve the goal of becoming a full nuclear power.
The Hwasong-15 missile reportedly flew 950km at an apogee of 4,475km to splash into the body of water separating the Korean peninsula and Japan.
The newspaper used four front pages to hype up the communist nation's first ballistic missile firing in 75 days.
North Korea said its newest missile was designed to carry a "super-large heavy warhead". Based on its trajectory and distance, the missile would have a range of more than 13,000km - more than enough to reach Washington D.C. and the rest of the United States, the US-based Union of Concerned Scientists said.
However, it was unclear how heavy a payload the missile was carrying, and it was uncertain if it could carry a large nuclear warhead that far, the non-profit science advocacy group added.
The US officials quoted by Reuters also noted that North Korea has not proved it has an accurate guidance system for an intercontinental ballistic missile or a re-entry vehicle capable of carrying a nuclear warhead and surviving a return from space through Earth’s atmosphere, meaning further tests would be needed.