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Kim Jong Un's new missiles point to the first provocations for Biden

Kim Jong Un's new missiles point to the first provocations for Biden

Kim Jong Un has launched many new missiles in recent months, including at least one more this week. The next step is for him to shoot them into the air to get the attention of President-elect Joe Biden.

The North Korean leader paraded a new submarine-launched ballistic missile through central Pyongyang on Thursday as part of a military parade to mark the completion of more than a week of meetings of the ruling party. The Pukguksong-5, the largest in a growing line of solid-fuel nuclear missiles, brings Kim closer to opening a sea front in his strategic fight with the United States.

The new missile comes just four months after Kim unveiled a smaller version of the same rocket at a similar military parade in October. That event also featured a new massive ICBM, believed to be the world's largest mobile road weapon of its kind.

The problem for Kim is that many of these new systems have not been tested, diminishing their value as a deterrent against a US attack. If Kim wants to achieve the ambitious nuclear program he outlined at the Workers' Party meetings this month, he will have to start launching it soon.

"I'm sure we will see evidence in the near future," said Melissa Hanham, an expert on non-proliferation and affiliate with the Stanford Center for Security and International Cooperation.

North Korea has not fired an ICBM since November 2017, when Kim decided to open communications with US President Donald Trump. Kim has already declared an end to the evidence freeze he put in place to facilitate talks with Trump and, earlier this week, reaffirmed that the United States was his "greatest enemy."

The upcoming releases may illustrate how quickly North Korea has developed its nuclear supply systems in recent years, despite harsh international sanctions and Trump's three face-to-face meetings with Kim. Provocations can also help pressure the Biden administration to make concessions.

North Korea tested President Barack Obama with the launch of a long-range rocket and nuclear device a few months after he took office in 2009. It welcomed Trump with a series of tests that culminated in the launch of a missile. intercontinental ballistic that, according to experts, could produce nuclear energy. warhead to the entire United States

"The Biden administration doesn't need to accept this as a done deal," said Ankit Panda, Stanton's senior fellow in the Nuclear Policy Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. "An early signal from the United States could stop Kim, but Biden would have to offer a clearly valuable incentive, such as the prospect of sanctions relief."

The Biden administration has indicated that it may be ready to ease sanctions in exchange for Kim's measures to freeze, limit and reduce its atomic arsenal. This could help Kim fix an economy that has only gotten smaller since he took office a decade ago.

Kim has vowed never to hand over the nuclear arsenal he considers key to the survival of his regime. Each new missile helps reinforce his argument that the United States should abandon its demands for "final and fully verified denuclearization" and accept North Korea as a nuclear-armed state.

Earlier this month, Kim outlined plans for smaller and lighter nuclear weapons, improving the ability to strike strategic targets within 15,000 kilometers (9,320 miles), a thinly veiled allusion to the US. He said he was looking to develop missiles. solid fuel intercontinental ballistics and a nuclear powered submarine.

North Korean state media published photos and images from the last parade on Friday. Kim could further signal his intentions at a session of parliament scheduled for Sunday in Pyongyang.

Koh Yu-hwan, president of the government-funded Korean Institute for National Unification in Seoul, said North Korea could delay testing the Pukguksong missiles for now. "Kim may just want to send a message to Washington that his weapons will only advance if the United States continues to pressure him," Koh said, saying the goal was "to open up the possibility of talks with the new administration."

Kim's latest SLBMs would require a vessel with more capacity than his only current missile submarine, the Gorae, said Joseph Dempsey, a research associate at the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies.

"The considerably wider body diameter of the Pukguksong-3, -4 and now -5 raises the question of whether any of these missiles could be fitted to this ship, even with extensive modification," he said. North Korea is building at least one other ballistic missile submarine, he said.

Although it could be years before Kim deploys a larger submarine, the show will require a lot of provocative testing. North Korea can perform ejection tests of the new Pukguksong-5 on land before launching it from a submerged barge and finally from a submarine, said Hanham of the Stanford Center.

In addition, the weapons bring North Korea closer to developing solid-fuel ICBMs, which can be stored full and moved quickly to evade a counterattack. The diameter of Kim's latest Pukguksong missiles appears to have reached the key threshold of 1.7 meters (5.6 feet) needed to build one capable of crossing the Pacific, said Jeffrey Lewis, director of the East Asia Non-Proliferation Program at the Middlebury Institute for International Studies in California. .

"We have been saying for a year that North Korea could test a solid propellant ICBM in 2021," Lewis said. "I would expect more missile tests next year, unless there is some dramatic change in the relationship."

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