North Korea claimed on Friday that it tested a new long-range intercontinental ballistic missile that is designed to reach the U.S. mainland.
The announcement from the reclusive nation came a day after it tested the weapon, which sent Japanese citizens living in the northern part of Japan running for shelter after the country warned of a potential incoming missile.
The Associated Press spoke with experts who said that while the missile’s full capabilities were not on display, it was likely a significant advance in the country’s attempts to develop a nuclear arsenal that could strike the U.S.
The new missile, the Hwasong-18, is solid-fuel missile — a key development as the missile is more stable than liquid-fueled missiles, according to CNN.
“At an earlier stage of North Korea’s missile program, liquid-fuel ICBMs represented the quickest and easiest path to achieving the country’s historic goal of being able to threaten the continental United States,” wrote Joseph Dempsey, a research associate at the International Institute for Strategic Studies. “The addition of solid-fuel ICBMs to the missile force would make it a more credible strategic deterrent by providing a more capable, less vulnerable pre-emptive and retaliatory capability.”
Ankit Panda, a nuclear policy expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, told the AP that he was not sure that the development rose to the level of being a “game changer,” even though it was significant.
“The primary significance of solid-fuel ICBMs is in terms of what they’ll do for the survivability of North Korea’s overall ICBM force,” Panda said. “Because these missiles are fueled at the time of manufacture and are thus ready to use as needed, they will be much more rapidly useable in a crisis or conflict, depriving South Korea and the United States of valuable time that could be useful to preemptively hunt and destroy such missiles.”