North Korea released photos Thursday after successfully launching the Hwasong-15, an intercontinental ballistic missile, which, it claimed, is capable of reaching the U.S. mainland. North Korea also insisted that the missile can carry a nuclear warhead.
Pictures taken moments after the missile’s successful launch on Tuesday revealed a scene of elation, festivity as North Korea President Kim Jong Un and his officials smoked cigarettes and grinned.
Video footage captured the enormity of the missile, which, according to The Associated Press, exhibits a level of sophistication new to the North Koreans. Photos of the launch confirm Kim’s claims that North Korea had engineered an erector-launcher vehicle for the missile, without assistance from other countries.
According to an article by the BBC, the missile and the launcher signal a dramatic advance in Kim Jong Un's hunt for modern weaponry.
Kim Jong-un just casually strolling around while the Hwasong-14 ICBM is erected is quite something. (Wouldn't want… https://t.co/kI9TW9FwLo— Ankit Panda (@Ankit Panda)1499284213.0
What are the experts saying?
Roh Jae-cheon, a spokesman for the South Korean military, expressed concern.
“We believe this is a new type of missile,” Jae-cheon said. “It looks clearly different from the Hwasong-14 in the external looks of its nose cone, the linkage between its first and second stages, and its overall size.”
The experts are floored. Vipin Narang, an associate professor at MIT, said "It's a monster."
Michael Duitsman, a research associate at the Center for Nonproliferation Studies in Monterey, California, expressed his dismay on Twitter.
First, this is a very big missile. Quite a bit larger than the Hwasong-14 from earlier this year. https://t.co/vObmjdpYoH— Michael Duitsman (@Michael Duitsman)1511999505.0
He continued: "And I don’t mean ‘Big for North Korea.’ Only a few countries can produce missiles of this size, and North Korea just joined the club.”
Beyond the difference in size between the Hwasong-15 and previous missiles, Duitsman noted advancements in steering and design, from nozzles to engine.
The United Nations held an emergency meeting Wednesday in New York, in response to North Korea's claims.
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley unequivocally denounced the country's actions.
“The dictator of North Korea made a choice yesterday that brings the world closer to war, not farther from it," Haley said. "We have never sought war with North Korea, and still today we do not seek it. If war does come, it will be because of continued acts of aggression like we witnessed yesterday. And if war comes, make no mistake, the North Korean regime will be utterly destroyed."