(CNSNews.com) – One day before the opening of the Winter Olympics in South Korea, the Kim Jong-un regime displayed at a military parade the intercontinental ballistic missile which it claimed after its maiden test flight last November could reach anywhere in the continental United States.
Four hefty Hwasong-15 (U.S. designation: KN-22) ICBMs were showcased at Thursday’s parade in Pyongyang’s Kim Il-sung square, each on a nine-axle transporter-erector-launcher.
Footage from KCTV state television also showed other ballistic missiles on display, including the Hwasong-14 (KN-20) ICBM test-fired on July 4 last year, and also theoretically able to reach parts of the U.S. mainland.
The Korean People’s Army also showed off the intermediate-range Hwasong-12 (KN-17) which in a test last August flew over Japan, and is capable of reaching the U.S. territory of Guam.
Kim Jong-un and senior military brass are seen reviewing the missiles, tanks, armored vehicles and troops in below-zero temperatures, as North Koreans put on massive card displays including one spelling out the dictator’s name.
Kim, wearing a black hat and clothing, told the assembled crowd the parade showed that North Korea is now a “world-class military power” and urged the military to maintain a high state of combat readiness against the United States and its “followers.”
The timing of the parade – one day before the so-called “peace Olympics” open in PyeongChang – appeared designed to send a message of defiance at a time when the Trump administration, represented by visiting Vice-President Mike Pence, wants to use the event to focus attention on the regime’s nuclear and missile provocations and human rights abuses.
(Regime media outlets are calling February 8 the anniversary of the “reorganization” of North Korea’s armed forces, although since the 1970s the event has generally been marked on April 25, “Military Foundation Day.” Military parades in the reclusive Stalinist state are most often held in April and October, months that include key anniversaries and are also warmer than February.)
Despite severe tensions on the peninsula, belligerent rhetoric and multiple missile launches over the past year, North and South Korea have agreed their athletes will march together at Friday’s opening of the Olympics.
Pyongyang is also sending a senior delegation, headed by its nominal head of state Kim Yong-nam, and including Kim Jong-un’s sister – the first time a member of the ruling dynasty has visited the south since the Korean war ended in 1953.
Speculation persists about possible U.S.-North Korean encounters – particularly at a reception Friday being hosted by South Korean President Moon Jae-in, to which Kim Yong-nam and Pence are both invited.
The decision to hold the parade one day before the games opening stoked considerable debate in South Korea, where some regime-watchers said earlier that a decision not to showcase the U.S.-threatening Hwasong-15 in the parade would be interpreted as a sign of goodwill relating to the Olympics.
In the event, the Hwasong-15 has now been put on display, for the first time in a military parade. At an estimated 22 meters in length, the Hwasong-15 is a little bigger than the U.S. land-based ICBM, the Minuteman III.
The regime announced a successful test-launch of the Hwasong-15 on November 29, when the projectile – launched in a steep upward trajectory – flew higher than any previous one tested by North Korea. According to the South Korean and U.S. militaries it reached an apogee of 4,500 km during its 53-minute flight, and splashed down in the ocean almost 1,000 km from the launch site.
North Korea claimed at the time that the missile was “tipped with super-large heavy warhead which is capable of striking the whole mainland of the U.S.”
Outside experts disputed the warhead claim, saying that for the test it likely carried a light dummy warhead.
Still, some calculated that the missile, if fired at a standard (that is, shallower) trajectory and depending on payload weight, does have the capability to reach the continental U.S., if the regime attains the requirement of getting the missile to survive re-entry into the atmosphere.