On Thursday, North Korea tested a new intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), the Hwasong-18, according to Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), potentially allowing the country to launch long-range nuclear strikes more quickly and easily. The solid-fueled ICBM is believed to enhance the North’s ability to launch nuclear counter-strikes, though it is still not clear whether such a missile could deliver a nuclear warhead at a long distance, for instance, to mainland United States. ICBMs are fired into space, speed along the Earth’s atmosphere, then their nuclear payload undergoes a fiery reentry process when the missile plunges down on the end target; if the re-entry process is not executed with pinpoint accuracy and with materials that can withstand immense heat generated, the warhead would burn up before reaching its target. The solid-fueled ICBM would be fueled during manufacturing and can be moved more easily to avoid detection before launch that could be initiated within minutes. Although the Hwasong-18 has three stages, just like the US’s main ICBM, the Minuteman III, experts are cautious to call this a game changer, but rather describe it as a display of technological progress.
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