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North Korean solid-fuel rocket motor test elevates potential threat of surprise strike

North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un stands near a new solid rocket motor, perhaps 2 meters in diameter, enough to build a new solid fuel intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).
FPI / December 21, 2022


By Richard Fisher

According to a report and images published by North Korea’s Korea Central News Agency (KCNA), on Dec. 15 North Korea tested a new large solid fuel rocket motor at its Sohae Satellite Launch Center, with North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un in attendance.

Images released by KCNA indicate the motor is close to 2 meters in diameter, that could enable Pyongyang to build a solid fuel intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) large enough to carry multiple warheads.

In its April 15, 2017 military parade, North Korea actually displayed a mockup of a cold-launch tube for a one to two-meter diameter ICBM, atop a transporter-erector-launcher (TEL) designed by the China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation (CASIC) and likely built by that same company.

Eight days before the North Korean rocket motor test, on Dec. 7, CASIC achieved the first successful launch for its 2.2 meter diameter solid fuel Kuaizhou-11 (KZ-11) space launch vehicle.

Deployed as an ICBM, the KZ-11 could easily carry up to ten nuclear warheads.

Inasmuch as CASIC has built or provided assistance for North Korea to assemble three generations of its 16-to-18-wheel TELs, there stands a very good chance that CASIC has provided technology for North Korea’s new 2-meter diameter solid rocket motor.

Should it deploy new solid-fuel and mobile ICBMs, North Korea would be able to launch surprise nuclear strikes against the United States as fast as modern Chinese and Russian mobile ICBMs.

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