Sino-North Korean relations ballistic
The August 26, 2020, edition of the Rodong Sinmun announced that North Korea had successfully launched a new kind of rocket. (Rodong Sinmun)

North Korea’s launch of short-range ballistic missiles last Thursday evening was a final pre-deployment test of ballistic missiles aimed at South Korea, Daily NK has learned. 

The consecutive launch of three missiles was a first, indicating North Korea’s intention to defeat the allied US-South Korean missile defense system by reorganizing and completing its strategic weapons system.

According to a Daily NK source in the North Korean military on Friday, the test of North Korea’s “super-large rocket launcher” was carried out on orders from the Central Military Commission regarding changes to the military’s battle chart in accordance with the reorganization of the army’s firepower, strategic and tactical weapon deployments.

North Korea fired three short-range ballistic missiles from Pyongyang’s Sunan region into the East Sea at around 6:29 PM on Thursday. They flew 360 kilometers, reaching a maximum altitude of around 90 kilometers and a speed of about Mach 5. North Korea usually discloses the flight data and launch goals through the media the day after a missile test, but no such reports emerged even a full day after the latest test.

The source said the test was a final screening in accordance with a Central Military Commission decision to reorganize the firepower, strategic and tactical weaponry of artillery units stationed in the east, west and central sections of the DMZ and regions further inland. He said the Operations Bureau also reportedly ordered that units get new firepower, strategic and tactical weaponry from mid-June to October, and reorganize themselves accordingly.

Jointly screened by the party’s Defense Industry Department and Ministry of Defense’s weapons screening bureau, the “super-large rocket launcher” used in the latest test not only has improved running fire capabilities, but also unlike ordinary rocket launchers, it carries guided munitions capable of precise strikes.

The source said development of the weapon system began from 2014, with the Defense Industry Department’s screening bureau testing it in 2019. The latest test was a final screening by the Defense Industry Department and Ministry of Defense prior to battlefield deployment. The source said the tactical and technological data from the test was reported to the Central Committee, with measures to deploy the weapons to follow later.

North Korea considers the test of the “super-large rocket launcher” a success. Should the weapon be deployed soon, it would appear to constitute a major threat to South Korea’s missile defense system.

Meanwhile, North Korea is reportedly diversifying its rockets and shells as the country carries out a general reform of its firepower, strategic and tactical weapon systems.

The source said not all rocket launchers are alike, and that their tactical and technological data differ depending on the battle chart. He said the key point of the Central Military Commission’s decision to retool the military’s firepower, strategic and tactical weaponry is to diversify the launch methods, improving the country’s wartime capabilities and modernizing its defense.

Prior to this, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un mentioned the strengthening of North Korea’s nuclear forces in his speech at the military parade on Apr. 25, saying the country would develop various means to deliver nuclear weapons.

Translated by David Black. Edited by Robert Lauler. 

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