Nuclear Diplomacy and Disarmament

Hwasong-17: North Korea’s new ‘monster missile’


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Hwasong-17  

Mains level: Nuclear Proliferation by N Korea


North Korea said it test-fired its massive new Hwasong-17 intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).


  • The Hwasong-17 is nuclear-armed North Korea’s biggest missile yet, and is the largest road-mobile, liquid-fuelled ICBM in the world.
  • Its diameter is estimated to be between 2.4 and 2.5 metres, and its total mass, when fully fuelled, is likely somewhere between 80,000 and 110,000 kg.
  • Unlike North Korea’s earlier ICBMs, the Hwasong-17 is launched directly from a transporter, erector, and launcher (TEL) vehicle with 11 axles, photos by state media showed.

How far can it fly?

  • The missile launched on Friday flew nearly 1,000 km (621 miles) for about 69 minutes and reached a maximum altitude of 6,041 km.
  • The weapon could travel as far as 15,000 km (9,320 miles), enough to reach the continental United States.

What is North Korea trying to demonstrate with the missile launches?

  • North Korea is wary of joint drills between the US and South Korea and believes them to be a rehearsal for invasion and proof of hostile policies.
  • Notably, Pyongyang’s record launches this year began even before military exercises between the allies, one also involving Japan.
  • While it says it is responding to the “provocative” drills, some analysts believe that Kim Jong-un must be setting the stage for something bigger— the resumption of nuclear testing after five years.
  • Pyongyang may also be showcasing its pre-emptive abilities in response to South Korea’s own pre-emptive “kill chain” strategy.

Failure of diplomacy

  • North Korea pulled out of the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT) in January 2003 and has conducted six nuclear tests so far since 2006.
  • Diplomatic talks have been starting and halting over the past two decades.
  • The Six-Party Talks involving South and North Korea, China, Japan, Russia, and the United States, started in 2003, have since stalled with changing geopolitical dynamics.
  • Former U.S. President Donald Trump met with Kim Jong-un thrice between 2018 and 2019 but talks broke down and resulted in more sanctions from the West and increased testing by Pyongyang.
  • The Joe Biden administration did make attempts to restart talks, and North Korea has not seemed keen either.


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