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Firing up: North Korea builds ICBM capability

A televised North Korean military parade held in Pyongyang to mark the 75th founding anniversary of its armed forces, which showcased a record number of intercontinental ballistic missiles. (JUNG YEON-JE/AFP via Getty Images)

On 18 February, North Korea conducted a test-firing of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM). North Korea's state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said that a Hwaseong-15 ICBM was fired in a “surprise ICBM launching drill”, following written direction from the country's leader Kim Jong-un.

KCNA reported that the missile flew for over an hour and travelled 989 km. It added that the test was “clear proof of the sure reliability of our powerful physical nuclear deterrent”.

The test followed an 8 February parade in Pyongyang celebrating the 75th anniversary of the founding of North Korea's armed forces, at which different elements of the ICBM force were displayed.

The test also followed several other ICBM tests that took place over the past 12 months. In March 2022, a successful test-firing of an ICBM took place, with the missile travelling 1,090 km – the furthest distance flown by a North Korean ICBM to date. The missile tested was reported by KCNA to be a Hwaseong-17. However, South Korea's Ministry of National Defense suggested that the missile fired may have been a Hwaseong-15. In November 2022, two further tests were reported to have taken place. On 3 November, an unidentified ICBM was reported to have been fired, but it was not confirmed whether the test was a success. On 18 November, KCNA reported that a Hwaseong-17 was tested successfully.

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