Reports: N. Korea May Have Enough ICBMs to Overwhelm US

Pyongyang trotted out a dozen or so of what it says are Hwasong-17s at Wednesday military parade
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 9, 2023 7:37 AM CST
Pyongyang Just Had Quite a Parade
In this photo provided by the North Korean government, what it says are intercontinental ballistic missiles are displayed during a military parade in Pyongyang, North Korea, on Wednesday. The content of this image is as provided and cannot be independently verified.   (Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP)

North Korea hosted a military parade Wednesday night in Pyongyang, a celebration of the 75th anniversary of the modern-day Korean People's Army. But one attraction in particular rolling down the streets of Kim Il Sung Square is now drawing international attention: what the nation's government claims were a dozen or so Hwasong-17 intercontinental ballistic missiles—the largest number of the nuclear weapons yet witnessed in that country, reports Reuters. "This is cumulatively more ICBM launchers than we've ever seen before at a North Korean parade," Ankit Panda of the US-based Carnegie Endowment for International Peace tweeted of the 11 missiles he counted in images released by state media (check out some of the photos here).

The Hwasong 17, North Korea's largest ICBM, is believed to be capable of reaching the United States, and the number apparently seen Wednesday might be enough to "conceivably overwhelm the United States' defense against them, blowing a hole in decades of denuclearization and homeland security policies," per Politico. The outlet, which reports there may have been as many as 12 of the ICBMs spotted, notes that each one can theoretically hold four nuclear warheads. The US, however, has only 44 interceptors on the ground in Alaska and California to take out any incoming missiles—meaning "it's possible Pyongyang can fire more warheads at the US than America has interceptors." Also seen at the parade: vehicles carrying what some analysts think were prototypes of solid-fuel missile canisters, which don't need to spend time fueling up, as they come preloaded.

In 2020, Chad O'Carroll, founder of the US-based NK News, predicted that North Korea would have "military parades with dozens of ICBMs" and "solid-fuel ICBMs"—by 2040. "We're only at 2023 and this parade shows rapid progress on these two points," he tweeted Wednesday. Politico notes that it hasn't yet been shown that the Hwasong-17 missiles can actually survive reentry or hit a US target from such a distance. But Wednesday's show "punches a hole in 20-plus years of US homeland missile defense policy predicated on defending against a 'limited' missile threat from North Korea," Panda tells the outlet, which notes that "administration after administration has failed to stop North Korea's march to this moment." (Kim Jong Un had his daughter front and center at an earlier banquet.)

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