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Kim Jong-un. Picture: BLOOMBERG VIA GETTY IMAGES/SEONGJOON CHO
Kim Jong-un. Picture: BLOOMBERG VIA GETTY IMAGES/SEONGJOON CHO

North Korea tried to deceive the world about the type of missile it fired last week, claiming that it successfully tested a “huge”, new intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) while actually firing a type of rocket was first launched in 2017, South Korean defence officials said on Tuesday. 

The missile North Korea launched last week was probably a Hwasong-15, which was successfully tested in November 2017 and designed to carry a single nuclear warhead, the ministry said in a report to legislators. That is  less advanced than the Hwasong-17, a multiple-warhead missile, which Pyongyang declared a success with a slick, highly produced video.

South Korean officials said the shadows in the video of the Hwasong-17 launch fell in a direction indicating the footage was shot between 8am and 10am, rather than Thursday afternoon, when and ICBM rocketed into space and fell in the sea off of Japan. The cloud cover shown in the video also did not match the weather on the day of the launch, the officials said. 

That suggests North Korea may have used video from a failed Hwasong-17 test on the morning of March 16 and launched an actual Hwasong-15 to sell it as a success, as previously reported by NK News. The Kim regime has long relied on weapons tests to bolster its image as a national protector, giving it an incentive to cover up missile that failed in an explosion that could be seen in the skies over Pyongyang. 

South Korea’s defence ministry said eight days was “not enough time” to identify technical problems and carry out another test of the Hwasong-17.  North Korea needed a tool for propaganda after its citizens witnessed the failure of the earlier launch, said the ministry.

North Korea’s state media said Friday that Kim called the successful launch of the new missile a “priceless victory won by the great Korean people”. He said his forces are “are fully ready to thoroughly curb and contain any dangerous military attempts of the US imperialists”.

The ICBM fired on Thursday reached an altitude of 6,200km and travelled 1,080km, according to South Korea’s joint chiefs of staff, higher and farther than North Korea’s previous ICBM test. The Hwasong-15 has a range that could deliver a nuclear warhead to all of the US mainland, weapons experts have said.

North Korea also altered video footage when it tried to pass off a failed January 2016 test of a submarine-launched ballistic missile, which NK News billed then as a success. North Korea had also tried to doctor out evidence of Kim’s presence at another SLBM test in October 2019.

More stories like this are available on bloomberg.com

Bloomberg

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un reacts next to military officials during what state media reports is the launch of the ‘Hwasong-17’ intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) in this undated photo released on March 25, 2022. Picture: KCNA/REUTERS
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un reacts next to military officials during what state media reports is the launch of the ‘Hwasong-17’ intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) in this undated photo released on March 25, 2022. Picture: KCNA/REUTERS
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