North Korea’s newest missile has a striking resemblance to an advanced Russian design, according to experts analyzing images from a test of the weapon on Saturday morning.
The missile, which North Korea describes as a “tactical guided weapon,” appears superficially to be nearly identical to Russia’s Iskander missile — a highly accurate short-range weapon capable of striking targets more than 150 miles away.
Such a system has the potential to challenge missile defenses in South Korea and further escalate tensions in the region. If it is an Iskander-like missile, this new weapon will fly at altitudes that will make it hard to intercept, according to Michael Elleman, a physicist and senior fellow for missile defense at the International Institute for Strategic Studies. The Iskander flies at an altitude of roughly 30 miles, Elleman says, too high for U.S. Patriot surface-to-air missile interceptors, but too low for THAAD, a system capable of intercepting longer-range missiles.
North Korea tested the weapon on May 4 as part of a “strike drill” that included the use of other weapons such as rocket artillery. It was the first publicized test of a missile since North Korea declared a voluntary moratorium on long-range intercontinental missile tests in April 2018. The new missile appears to be short-range, meaning it doesn’t violate the moratorium.