- North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported on Wednesday that static tests of a new high-thrust solid-fuel engine for its intermediate ballistic missiles (IRBM) have been successfully conducted, stressing the strategic importance of solid-fuel missiles.1
- The results were reportedly highly satisfactory for both the inaugural first-stage engine test conducted on Nov. 11 and for the second-stage engine on Tuesday, boosting confidence in the goal of reliably developing a new IRBM this year.2
- The tests highlight efforts from Pyongyang to modernize its ballistic missile arsenal. Solid-fuel missiles are easier to hide and quicker to deploy and fire in comparison to liquid-fuel weapons, which North Korea almost exclusively relied on before Kim Jong Un took power.3
- South Korea's Yonhap News Agency has speculated that Pyongyang may test-fire a solid-fuel IRBM to mark its newly assigned Missile Industry Day on Nov. 18. Given that an IRBM has the potential to fly some 4K kilometers (2,485 miles), the US territory of Guam would be within its range.4
- This announcement coincides with a US-South Korea joint airpower demonstration involving an Air Force B-52 strategic bomber alongside multiple fighter jets, as well as with a four-day naval drill in the East Sea that began on Monday.5
- Meanwhile, North Korea has welcomed Russia's natural resources minister, Alexander Kozlov, reportedly to discuss matters related to economy, science, and technology. According to KCNA, he expressed his intent to foster 'substantial cooperation' based on the agreements signed by Kim and Vladimir Putin in September.6
- Pro-establishment narrative, as provided by Military. This latest test confirms that Kim Jong Un is trying to strengthen his military's ability to conduct sneak attacks on Western allies, a move that must raise alarm bells all across the region. Though Pyongyang's missile program may not yet have all the technology needed to make pinpoint, targeted, long-distance strikes, arms cooperation with Russia could enhance the threat of its missile and nuclear programs. The US, South Korea, and Japan must now prepare for how it would respond militarily should Kim decide to attack.
- Establishment-critical narrative, as provided by KCNA. The so-called freedom-loving West has selected a few countries to bad-mouth — North Korea, Russia, and China — while doing exactly what it accuses them of doing. The US and UK have both sent illegal cluster bombs and depleted uranium bombs to Ukraine to drop on Russians, and Japan and South Korea are building up their military capabilities while conducting provocative exercises with the US. The G7 nations are bullies who only care about de-escalation when it's them calling on others to de-escalate.