North Korea’s military parade on Feb. 8 rolled out seven intercontinental ballistic missiles that experts assess can strike the U.S. — and it’s more than the country has ever shown before.
Before the crowd in Pyongyang, where below freezing temperatures reddened the spectators’ faces, North Korea put on its usual display of military might with rows of troops and tanks, but also showed off two new inventions: the Hwasong-14 and the Hwasong-15.
The missiles were both tested in 2017 and have demonstrated they have the range to strike the U.S. mainland. North Korea has used both missiles to threaten U.S. citizens.
The Hwasong-14, a smaller missile, was first tested on July 4, 2017, to the surprise of North Korea experts, some of whom thought that an ICBM capability would continue to elude North Korea for years. North Korea tested it again on July 28, when it flew over 2,300 miles above the Earth before crashing down 620 miles away in the Sea of Japan.
Experts assessed that even though the missile fit the definition of an ICBM by flying more than 5,500 kilometers, it still probably couldn’t haul a heavy nuclear warhead to important U.S. cities, like Washington D.C. or New York City.
But at the end of November 2017, North Korea again shocked critics by testing an entirely new, as of yet unseen design — the Hwasong 15.
The massive missile flew almost 2,800 miles above earth before crashing into the Sea of Japan. This time, experts were nearly unanimous. The larger warhead, with its larger nosecone, resembled the U.S.’s Trident missile, the most powerful warhead the U.S. ever deployed.
The consensus among analysts is that North Korea’s Hwasong-15 ICBM can strike anywhere within the U.S. with a heavy nuclear warhead, or multiple nuclear warheads.
But though the missile has the reach, it may not have the durability. North Korea has never tested an ICBM at full range, and therefore has not demonstrated its ability to build a warhead that can survive reentry into the Earth’s atmosphere, let alone its ability to guide such a missile.
On Feb. 7, a U.S. envoy to North Korea said the country could likely master the technology needed to deliver a nuclear blast on Washington D.C. in only months.
North Korea, a paranoid country bent on regime survival as it defies international law, most likely would not display all its missiles at once, for fear that the U.S. would bomb the parade. Additionally, the missiles shown in the parade may not be operational or have been faked for propaganda purposes.
Exactly how many missiles it has in its arsenal is unknown, but North Korea has now told the world it has multiple missiles it can strike the U.S. with.