North Korea says it has tested multiple warhead missile technology

North Korea on Thursday said for the first time that it had tested the technology to launch multiple nuclear warheads with a single missile, days after President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia visited North Korea and raised the prospect of opening expand military and technical cooperation.

Wednesday’s test was “aimed at ensuring the capabilities of MIRV,” North Korea’s Central News Agency reported. MIRV stands for “multi-independent re-entry vehicle,” a missile payload containing multiple warheads, each of which can be sent to a different target. The report said the test involved part of the MIRV system and not a full-fledged multi-warhead missile.

Since North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, welcomed Mr. Putin for talks Last week, officials and analysts expressed concern that their deepening relationship would encourage Mr. Kim to embark on an ambitious upgrade of his nuclear arsenal.

The possibility of MIRV will increase sharply in the future the threat posed by the North for the United States and its allies, because a high-speed ballistic missile that splits into multiple nuclear warheads as well as decoys would be more difficult for missile defense systems to intercept. However, experts believe that North Korea is far from mastering the technology.

Col. Lee Sung-jun, a spokesman for the South Korean military, said Thursday there was “deception and exaggeration” in North Korea’s announcement. He did not elaborate but said photos of the test published by state media may have been altered. South Korean officials dismissed Wednesday’s test as a failure shortly after it occurred, saying a missile exploded over the sea east of North Korea after flying 150 miles. They said the testing appeared to be related to one hypersonic ballistic missile.

Under multiple United Nations Security Council resolutions, North Korea is prohibited from developing or testing nuclear or ballistic missile technology. But Mr. Kim has redoubled his efforts to expand those capabilities since 2019, when his direct diplomacy with then-President Donald J. Trump collapsed.

Mr. Kim has found a new ally in Mr. Putin since the Russian leader ordered a full-scale attack on Ukraine in 2022. Washington and its allies have accused North Korea of ​​transporting large quantities of artillery shells and other weapons. other ammunition to help Russia resist their aggression. war of attrition.

During Mr. Putin’s visit to Pyongyang last week, he and Mr. Kim signed a “comprehensive strategic partnership treaty,” which included a joint commitment to “provide military and other support in all means in their possession without delay” when either country is in trouble. attack.

The treaty also calls for “joint measures aimed at enhancing defense capabilities,” which has raised concerns among Washington and its allies that Russia could help North Korea develop missiles. Putin said in Pyongyang that Russia “does not rule out developing military-technical cooperation” with North Korea.

Multi-warhead nuclear missiles have long been on Kim’s wish list. However, although North Korea has conducted several successful nuclear tests, it has yet to demonstrate that it can design even a single warhead that can survive a ballistic missile’s rotation. reenter the atmosphere and pose a threat to an enemy as far away as the United States. Experts say.

North Korea’s nuclear forces are especially dependent on missiles as delivery vehicles because the country lacks advanced fighter jets or submarines to launch them. North Korea has built solid-fuel rockets that are easier to maneuver and hide from enemies, and tested hypersonic missile technology, although South Korean officials say success is still years away. real success in that field.

During Wednesday’s test, North Korea’s Missile Administration “successfully conducted separation control and guidance testing of each mobile warhead,” according to state media reports. The report said engineers used the first stage’s engine medium-range solid-fuel ballistic missile to conduct testing within a relatively modest radius, to ensure safety and better evaluate the flight characteristics of each warhead.

“The separate mobile warheads were accurately guided to three target coordinates,” the report said. But they added that engineers need to “further improve the effectiveness of decoys”, which are fake warheads intended to confuse defense systems.

The United States and South Korea have been expanding their joint defense posture, along with Japan, citing growing threats from the North as well as from China. Over the weekend, a group of US nuclear-powered aircraft carriers arrived in South Korea to participate in trilateral joint exercises with Japan. On Wednesday, South Korea conducted live-fire and missile drills on islands near its western sea border with North Korea.


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