Analysts from the intelligence agencies of the United States, South Korea and Japan are trying by all means to decipher the secrets behind the strategic weapons first exhibited in Pionyang at the parade commemorating the 75th anniversary of the founding of the Korean Workers' Party.
Several newly designed ballistic missiles were shown at a military parade which, unlike previous editions, took place during the night. At an unusual time -from 0 am to 3 am from Friday to Saturday, October 10, the acclaimed Supreme Leader, President Kim Jong-un, witnessed the impressive military ceremony under the powerful spotlights that illuminated the square named in honour of his grandfather, President Kim Il Sung.
Thousands of troops on foot and hundreds of battle tanks, armoured vehicles, towed artillery and missiles took part in the grand night-time parade. Nor were the diplomats accredited with the authorities of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea invited.
The North Korean regime's show of force was also not broadcast live on official television, but its images were broadcast the next day by newspapers and state television stations in Pionyang. From that moment on, the military identification specialists fulfilled their mission of deciphering the characteristics of the new weapons.
The speech delivered for the occasion by Kim Jong-un focused on encouraging his compatriots to "stand firm in the face of the unforeseen challenges posed by the pandemic". In power since 2011, on this occasion the North Korean leader made no threats or harsh direct criticism of the Trump administration and limited himself to stating that his army is the "driving force of national defence that puts a stop to military threats from hostile forces".
American, Japanese and South Korean experts in weapons systems reconnaissance have discovered two new missiles that threaten the security of their respective countries and their allies in the region, although they all appear to be still in the development phase.
Manufactured under the strictest secrecy over the past few years, what has impressed the intelligence analysts of the Pentagon and South Korea most is a new strategic missile whose name is still unknown. Several copies passed in front of the dictator, engraved with a letter of the Korean alphabet followed by seven uncorrelated digits (07220406 and 03380408), the meaning of which is unknown.
The mysterious X missile is just over 23 metres long, longer than the Hwasong-15 intercontinental ballistic missile, which is the longest-range North Korean missile in the entire Pionyang arsenal. First shown in February 2018, Hwasong-15 has been fired twice in 2019 from the Sohae Missile Test Centre on the west coast of the Korean peninsula.
Mounted on a large 11-axle, 22-wheel tractor truck that serves as its launch pad, the unknown X missile - which may have been named Hwasong-16 - has been described by researcher Ankit Panda as "the largest mobile liquid fuel missile ever seen". Professor Panda is a specialist in nuclear strategy, arms control and missile defence in the Asia-Pacific region and belongs to the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and the US Federation of Scientists.
The South Korean military has carefully studied the images broadcast on North Korean television and estimates that the new mobile system would have improved propulsion systems and that its range would be even greater than that of the Hwasong-15, of which it is believed that it can travel some 13,000 kilometres.
It could carry several warheads that are difficult to intercept, with the capacity to impact on the Atlantic coast of the United States, where politically and economically important cities such as New York and Washington are located.
Another strategic piece of equipment unveiled last week is the Pukguksong-4A, which is also ballistic. With the name engraved around the body of the missile, the specialists do not agree whether it is a completely new system or the surface-to-surface version of the Pukguksong-3.
With an estimated maximum range of between 3,000 and 4,000 kilometres, the Pukguksong-3 is a vector that North Korea has been assessing since October 2019 and has been designed to be fired by immersion from the new Sinpo-class submarines with a displacement of 3,000 tonnes.
For South Korean specialist Kwon Yong-soo, a former professor at South Korea's National Defence University, the external appearance of the Pukguksong-4A "is similar to that of China's multi-warhead JL-2". If this were true, the new missile would be capable of travelling a distance of 7,200 kilometres and reaching the American island of Guam, where the US Air Force has the very important strategic base of Andersen.
The Korean Workers' Party was established in 1945 and has been governing North Korea since its inception in 1948. The celebration of its 75th anniversary comes in the midst of stalled negotiations on nuclear reduction with the Trump administration and under the pressure of the serious economic problems experienced by a country that is closed to the outside world and denies the existence of those infected by the COVID-19 pandemic.