North Korea Tests New Pukguksong-2 (KN-11 Mod 1) MRBM: What Now?

Okay, so we are definitely talking about a land based KN-11 SLBM test. The North Korean news agency states that the missile is a new missile called the Pukguksong-2.

The Pukguksong-1 is what we call the KN-11 SLBM, so the Pukguksong-2 is the land based variant let us call it the KN-11 Mod 1.

Images of the test, see above, have been released and they show a cold launch of the KN-11 Mod 1 from a new TEL.

Nasty. North Korea’s strategic capabilities are growing.

According to the North Korean news agency, quoting Kim Jon Un,

Now our rocket industry has radically turned into high thrust solid fuel-powered engine from liquid fuel rocket engine and rapidly developed into a development- and creation-oriented industry, not just copying samples

The KN-11 Mod 1 is based on the R-27 or SS-N-6 Serb Soviet era, liquid fuelled, SLBM engine.

North Korea, with the KN-11, reversed engineered the R-27 engine for use with solid fuel. It also reverse engineered the R-27 engine for use with highly energetic liquid propellants to give the Musudan MRBM and, we thought, the KN-08 limited range ICBM with extra range.

Notice also that the KN11 Mod 1 flew over North Korean territory into the Sea of Japan, thus demonstrating North Korea’s confidence with this design. The Feb 2017 test comes after the successful sea launch in August 2016.

In 2016 North Korea conducted static tests of the R-27 using highly energetic liquid fuels.

However, the Musudan has had a string of spectacular test failures.North Korea, it appears, is shifting toward solid fuelled ballistic missiles in response.

This could mean that the KN-08, which has not been tested, will be solid fuelled rather than propelled by liquid fuels. The latest test might suggest that we are on the cusp of a North Korean ICBM test.

In this regard the North Korean news agency report stated

The test-fire proved… working feature of high thrust solid fuel- powered engines and those of separation at the stages. It also verified the position control and guidance in the middle section and section of re-entry after the separation of the improved warhead of the missile which can be tipped with a nuclear warhead, the feature of evading interception, etc

That is, the KN-11 Mod 1 MRBM test successfully tested stage separation and retry vehicle dynamics, both capabilities of great importance for an ICBM programme.

As an ICBM test looms the question that needs to be asked is; will/should the US accept a condition of mutual nuclear deterrence with North Korea? President Trump tweeted that Washington won’t accept mutual deterrence with Pyongyang, and Ballistic Missile Defense has always been based on the premise that the US does not need to accept deterrence for BMD provides protection against North Korean missiles.

BMD provides a false sense of security, and so does not obviate the need to seriously consider the question.

Trump has stated that the US will not allow North Korea to acquire an ICBM. North Korea is steadily heading toward acquiring such a capability. A potential nuclear showdown in the Asia Pacific looms.

I feel that we may be heading toward a foreign policy fiasco that dwarfs Iraq by comparison, and Obama would be much to blame for this. Successive administrations have pursued the wrong policy regarding North Korea, with Obama’s policy of “strategic patience,” essentially copying Term Two Bush, wasting eight years in which bilateral diplomacy could have achieved denuclearisation.

US policy has been hitherto dominated by the calculation that nonproliferation considerations can be used to squeeze the North Korean regime until it collapses or is compelled to pursue significant Gorbachev style market reforms.

But this is not happening, and prevailing policy is reaching its limits. Eight years ago, the US had more leverage, and Washington could have extracted a denuclearisation deal at much lower cost given that Pyongyang has relatively more to give up, as it were, now.

One potential consequence of the latest North Korean missile test is the deployment to Japan of THAAD, which will affect Washington and Tokyo’s relationship with China much as THAAD deployment has done for South Korea.

When looking at the whole sorry affair it’s hard to escape the conclusion that security isn’t really the top policy priority.

Given we’re talking cold launch from a TEL I caaaaaaaaaaaaaaan’t help but throw in a Russian Topol ICBM cold launch from a TEL.

Ciao.