Mar 29, 2022 - World

South Korea says North Korea fired older missile last week

People in Pyongyang watching the missile launch on March 25.

People in Pyongyang watching the missile launch on March 25. Photo: Kim Won Jin/AFP via Getty Images

South Korea said Tuesday that North Korea used an older missile during its intercontinental ballistic missile launch last week, not a newly developed ICBM as Pyongyang had claimed, according to AP.

Why it matters: Though the launch likely involved an older weapon system, it still raised new alarms about North Korea's ability to strike the United States with nuclear weapons, as the country hasn't tested an ICBM since 2017.

North Korea claimed to have tested a newly developed Hwasong-17 missile, which likely has a longer potential range than older missiles and the ability to carry multiple nuclear warheads at the same time, according to AP.

  • South Korea’s Defense Ministry said the test involved a Hwasong-15 — an older ICBM that North Korea first successfully tested in 2017.
  • Both weapons, however, could likely deliver warheads to the U.S. mainland.

The big picture: After the test, Japan said the North Korean missile flew to an altitude of 3,728 miles and covered a distance of 596 miles.

  • It was North Korea's 11th missile launch of the year, but the longest-range test since North Korean leader Kim Jong-un imposed a moratorium on ICBM and nuclear tests to pursue diplomacy with former President Trump.
  • Citing South Korean government sources, the Seoul-based Yonhap News Agency reported Sunday that North Korea appears to be preparing its nuclear test site in Punggye-ri for an underground nuclear experiment.
  • If North Korea does conduct a nuclear test, it would be the country's first in roughly four and a half years.

Go deeper: North Korea tests first intercontinental ballistic missile since 2017

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