June 12, 2019 13:07
North Korea's missile tests on May 4 and 9 "appear to be aimed at advancing solid fuel and guidance systems," the U.S. Congressional Research Service says.
The CRS in its latest report said the missiles were KN-23 short-range missiles similar to the Russian Iskander-type missiles.
The CRS said the solid-fuel booster is "a chemically more stable option that also allows for reduced reaction and reload times," which could make it easier to bypass missile defenses.
Liquid-fuel boosters take time to tank up and this exposes them to detection, but solid-fuel missiles can be launched surreptitiously due to a short preparation time.
The CRS also downplayed North Korea's ostensible demolition last year of a missile launch pad in Tongchang-ri, saying it "may no longer need" the liquid-fuel missile launch pad now that it has shifted its strategy to solid-fuel boosters.
The South Korean military believes North Korea completed a solid-fuel booster for a short-range ballistic missile and is now starting to develop one for mid-range missiles that can reach targets more than 3,000 km away.
North Korea in March of 2016 announced it succeeded in a ground test of such a solid-fuel engine. It then test-fired a Pukguksong-1 submarine-launched missile refitted with a solid-fuel booster in August 2016 and a Pukguksong-2 intermediate-range missile in February 2017.
The CRS added, "North Korea could have potentially produced enough material for approximately 35 nuclear weapons, and... could now potentially produce enough nuclear material for an additional seven warheads per year."
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