North Korea said it launched a new solid-fueled Hwasong-18 Intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) on Thursday (local time), according to state media KCNA on Friday.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un guided the “first test launch of the new ICBM” and the launch had no “negative impact” to the safety of the neighboring countries, per KCNA. The missile also did a stage separation, it said.
Solid-fueled ICBMs are the state-of-the-art world standard, and can be moved more easily and launched quicker than a liquid-fueled rocket. The United States’ main ICBM, the Minuteman III, is powered by three solid-fueled rocket motors.
The Hwasong-18 will “defend North Korea, suppress invasions, and protect the safety of the nation,” KCNA said, saying Kim expressed “great satisfaction” over the achievement of the test launch.
Jeffrey Lewis, an analyst at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies, said on Twitter that it was “no surprise” a solid-fueled ICBM wasted tested by North Korea, saying “it’s just easier to use solid-fuel missiles.
“North Korea was always going to follow the same technical path as the US, Soviet Union, France, China, Israel and India,” he added. “Given that North Korea has been testing large diameter solid rocket motors for … several years, it’s been clear (to me at least) that since 2020 a test like this could have come at any time.”
The Thursday launch by North Korea sparked momentary panic on the Japanese northern island of Hokkaido after the government’s emergency alert system warned residents to take cover.
Soon after, fear turned into anger and confusion as the evacuation order was lifted amid reports that it had been sent in error, with local officials saying there was no possibility of the missile hitting the island and Tokyo later confirming it had fallen outside Japanese territory, in waters off the east coast of the Korean Peninsula.
The South Korean military said at the time that it believed Pyongyang was testing a new ballistic missile, which it had showcased in a military parade, according to a military official.