Analysts claim North Korea has been
exploiting satellite deception to test sections of a so-called
"monster" missile as it prepares for a sanctions-breaking launch on
the eve of a significant domestic event.
Pyongyang has conducted a total of
nine nuclear tests this year, according to experts, in an effort to complete a
laundry list of strategic weapons laid forth by leader Kim Jong Un.
The Hwasong-17, called a "monster missile" and initially revealed at a parade in October 2020, is one of the top priorities. It is an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) that can carry multiple warheads.
Although it has never been fired, Washington reported on Thursday that Pyongyang had recently tested sections of it while disguised as a satellite.
North Korea has been abiding by a
self-imposed ban on long-range and nuclear weapons testing, but with talks
deadlocked and sanctions still in place, it appears to be on the verge of
"I believe the moratorium has come to an end. We can anticipate a return to ICBM testing "Ankit Panda, a security analyst based in the United States, agreed.
The Hwasong-17, possibly the technology to "carry and deliver multiple warheads," was likely the subject of reported "reconnaissance satellite" components tests on February 27 and March 5, he said.
"Despite testing ICBMs capable of ranging the United States three times, North Korea has never proved the latter capacity," he claimed.
Escalation is a cycle that repeats itself.
North Korea's increased ambition to test an ICBM comes at a critical juncture in the region, as South Korea prepares to elect a new, more hawkish president, conservative Yoon Suk-yeol.
After five years under dovish liberal President Moon Jae-in, Yoon, who has threatened Pyongyang with a pre-emptive strike and promised to urge "rude child" Kim to behave, is likely to take a harsh approach with the North.
However, according to Yang Moo-jin, a professor at the University of North Korean Studies, this method is likely to result in a cycle of escalation, escalating tensions.
New sanctions will be imposed in response to the launches, which "Pyongyang is likely to retaliate by test-firing more missiles."
According to Leif-Eric Easley, a professor at Ewha University in Seoul, North Korea suspended its missile tests to "create room for negotiation and avert harsher penalties," but continued to work on diversifying their missiles.
he stated, "such weapons must be tested in order to assure accuracy and reentry capabilities,"
According to Ahn Chan-il, a North Korean studies professor, masking these as satellite tests can allow them "buy time" to create what they need to launch an ICBM.
Pyongyang also has a deadline: in April, the country's founding leader and Kim's grandfather, Kim Il Sung, will celebrate his 110th birthday, and Pyongyang loves to commemorate important domestic milestones with military parades or launches.
"It's quite possible that North Korea will test-fire an intercontinental ballistic missile on April 15 to commemorate Kim Il Sung's birthday," Ahn added.