SEOUL — North Korea has unveiled what analysts said was a new, solid-fuel intercontinental ballistic missile during a nighttime military parade in Pyongyang on Wednesday, the latest example of the country’s effort to fill its arsenal with increasingly advanced nuclear technology.
The parade, celebrating the 75th anniversary of North Korea’s military, featured ICBMs and short-range “tactical nuclear” missiles that demonstrated the North’s “tremendous nuclear strike capability,” North Korean state media said on Thursday.
North Korea has frequently boasted about its weapons technology. But experts, saying the isolated country has often exaggerated its abilities, have expressed doubt that it has acquired the technology needed to hit targets across an ocean with ICBMs.
The state media did not specify the capabilities of individual weapons at the parade, but the photos it carried showed the Hwasong-17 — the North’s largest ICBM — which was tested in November. The photos also showed a new ICBM-sized canister, a tube from which a missile is launched.
Although it was unclear if the canister was a mock-up or contained a real missile, it was mounted on a nine-axle vehicle, indicating that it was roughly the size of the North’s Hwasong-15 ICBM, first test-launched in 2017.
North Korea’s Missile Tests
An increase in activity. In recent months, North Korea has conducted several missile tests, hinting at an increasingly defiant attitude toward countries that oppose its growing military arsenal. Here’s what to know:
U.N. resolutions. Tensions on the Korean Peninsula started rising in 2017, when North Korea tested three intercontinental ballistic missiles and conducted a nuclear test. The United Nations imposed sanctions, and Pyongyang stopped testing nuclear and long-range missiles for a time.
Failed diplomacy. Former President Donald Trump met with Kim Jong-un, the North Korean leader, three times between 2018 and 2019, hoping to reach a deal on North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs. After the talks broke down, North Korea resumed missile testing.
An escalation. North Korea started a new round of testing in September 2021 after a six-month hiatus. It subsequently completed several tests, including the firing of multiple intermediate-range and intercontinental ballistic missiles, that violated the 2017 U.N. resolutions.
New provocations. Mr. Kim has launched a record number of missiles and focused on developing new ones in 2022. The North Korean leader has said that a “neo-Cold War” is emerging and has vowed to expand his country’s nuclear capabilities against South Korea “exponentially.”
The new canister looked like a slightly upgraded version of a weapon that North Korea unveiled during a military parade in 2017, suspected to be a solid-fuel ICBM but never tested, said Yang Uk, an expert on North Korean weapons at the Asan Institute for Policy Studies in Seoul.
Wednesday’s parade featured at least 15 ICBMs or ICBM mock-ups, more than in any previous military parade, Mr. Yang said, basing his analysis on photos in North Korean state media. “They appear to have brought out all their ICBMs, including their solid-fuel ICBM launch vehicles,” he said.
Solid-fuel missiles are easier to launch and harder to spot. In recent years, North Korea has tested a series of short-range, solid-fuel ballistic missiles that it said were capable of delivering nuclear warheads to South Korea.
But all three ICBMs that North Korea has tested so far have relied on liquid propellants. In December, the country tested a powerful new rocket engine that it said could be used to propel a solid-fuel ICBM. After that test, Kim Jong-un, the North’s leader, urged his engineers to build a new, solid-fuel ICBM “in the shortest span of time.”
Since taking power in 2011, Mr. Kim has staged more than a dozen military parades, using them to display his nuclear arsenal and to boost the morale of his people, who have suffered under international sanctions and food shortages.
The new missile disclosed on Wednesday was likely “a mock-up of a solid-fuel ICBM,” said Kim Dong-yub, a North Korean weapons expert at the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul. “The canister may have been empty, but we cannot dismiss it as blustering. North Korea has often shown mock-ups in parades before testing the actual missiles.”
Mr. Kim did not deliver a speech at the military parade on Wednesday, as he has often done in the past. He did, however, attend with his daughter, according to North Korean media. The young girl, Ju-ae, is the only one of Mr. Kim’s children to appear with him in public.
Her frequent recent appearances in state media have triggered speculation among analysts that she was being groomed as Mr. Kim’s successor. Her father has taken her mainly to military-related events.
Since Mr. Kim’s talks with President Donald J. Trump fell apart in 2019, North Korea, with one of the largest standing armies in the world, has renounced diplomacy with the United States and doubled down on weapons development. Last year, it launched at least 95 ballistic and other missiles, a record.
U.S. and South Korean officials have said for months that the North was readying another nuclear test as well, the country’s seventh.
When U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III and his South Korean counterpart, Lee Jong-Sup, met last month in Seoul, the allies agreed to expand their joint military drills to demonstrate their combined deterrence against the North.
When Mr. Kim presided over a meeting of his ruling Workers’ Party’s Central Military Commission this week, he exhorted his country to expand military drills and perfect “the preparedness for war.”