December 17, 2019 13:26
North Korea could build a multi-warhead intercontinental ballistic missile if denuclearization talks with the U.S. break down, a defense think tank has suggested.
The prediction comes after North Korea conducted two engine tests for ICBMs or space rockets this month.
In a report published Monday, the Korea Institute for Defense Analyses predicts that the regime will try to display its ability to retaliate against the U.S. in a bid to contain military pressure from Washington if denuclearization talks fall apart.
Military intelligence and other experts here have speculated that the upper part of a Hwasong-15-class ICBM the North launched in November 2017 had a round stubby shape because the regime envisioned the possibility of developing a multi-warhead missile.
Commenting the recent engine tests, a military source said, "This means that North Korea wants to send heavier nuclear materials farther. The higher the engine thrust is, the heavier the warhead it could carry and the more likely it is to be intended for multiple warheads."
Currently, only the U.S., Russia, China, the U.K. and France have ballistic missiles capable of carrying eight to 14 warheads at a time.
Russia's SS-18 Satan is tipped with eight to 10 nuclear warheads and China's newest ICBM DF-41 with 10. The Minuteman-Ⅲ, the U.S.' main ICBM, is tipped with three but the submarine-launched Trident-Ⅱ with up to 14.
Meanwhile, American rocket experts believe that North Korea has already developed all key technologies needed for an ICBM.
Jeffrey Lewis at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, told VOA Monday the Hwasong-14 "tested in the summer of 2017 could reach much of the United States, and the Hwasong-15 is large enough that it could deliver a nuclear weapon anywhere in the United States."
He also suggested that the North already has technology to build a reentry vehicle. He said, "There's never been a country that has been able to build an ICBM that hasn't been able to build a reentry vehicle."
And Jonathan McDowell at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics said, "I think that it almost doesn't matter in that, even if it doesn't hit a city, a North Korean missile hitting anywhere in the U.S. is enough of a threat."
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