May 16, 2017 11:28
The South Korean military is stunned not only by North Korea's missile technology but also by the short time it took to test and actually deploy a new high-powered engine.
A Defense Ministry official said Monday, "The pressure South Korea and the U.S. are feeling is incomparable to the past."
The speed of North Korea's missile development far surpassed their expectations. On March 18, the North successfully tested a new high-thrust engine at a launch site in Tongchang-ri, North Pyongan Province.
Leader Kim Jong-un hailed the achievement as a "new birth" for the country's rocket industry. And on Monday the North Korean state media featured Kim giving a scientist on a piggyback, so elated was he when the missile equipped with the new engine actually worked. It is unprecedented for the leader, who is seen as a demigod, to carry someone on his back.
A military source here said, "Kim was so elated because the North has succeeded in developing a thrust engine to replace the booster of the faulty Musudan missile, which failed in seven out of eight launches last year."
The missile fired on Sunday was unveiled at a military parade in Pyongyang on April 15 marking the 105th birthday of nation founder Kim Il-sung.
The shape of the 12-wheeled launch vehicle and slightly shorter new missile compared to the KN-08 intercontinental ballistic missile are telltale signs. The North went from testing the thrust engine to mounting it onto a missile in just four weeks. A military source said, "The speed is simply stunning even if it is a prototype."
North Korea's economy is just 1/44 the size of South Korea's and its defense budget just one-fifth. But the speedy missile development is possible because Kim is funneling all the impoverished nation's resources into developing weapons of mass destruction.
Since Kim came to power in 2012, the North has fired 50 missiles, compared to 29 during the 67-year reign of Kim Il-sung and his son Kim Jong-il.
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