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ConflictsSouth Korea

N Korea faked 'monster' missile launch, says Seoul

March 30, 2022

South Korea's defense ministry has said that North Korea fired an existing intercontinental ballistic missile and not a new one in last week's test launch.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, center, walks around what the country says is a Hwasong-17 intercontinental ballistic missile
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un (center) walks around what the country says is a Hwasong-17 intercontinental ballistic missileImage: KCNA /AP Photo/picture alliance

South Korea has negated North Korea's claim that it launched what experts have dubbed its "monster missile" last week.

South Korea's military on Wednesday accused the North of firing a less-powerful existing weapon instead of a newly developed intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) as Pyongyang had claimed.

Last Thursday, North Korea said it had test fired a Hwasong-17 missile — its longest-range ICBM — in the most significant weapons test in years.

State media in Pyongyang had called the launch "a historical event.''

Seoul dismisses Pyongyang launch claims

Seoul's military has said that, in reality, it was the same ICBM North Korea launched in 2017.

"US and South Korean intelligence has determined that what was fired on March 24 was a Hwasong-15," a defense ministry official told news agency AFP.

South Korea's Defense Ministry said it told a parliamentary committee that the details of Thursday's launch, including the weapon's speed, combustion and stage separation, were similar to those of the Hwasong-15, not the Hwasong-17.

The ministry said the alleged false announcement was likely an attempt by Pyongyang to compensate for a failed Hwasong-17 launch earlier this month.

Acccording to accounts from South Korea, the missile launched from the North's capital region on March 16 exploded soon after lift off, with residents of Pyongyang witnessing the mid-air blast.

"Pyongyang residents must have been shocked" by the failed launch, and it may have affected public opinion of the Kim Jong Un regime, lawmaker Ha Tae-keung of South Korea's conservative opposition People's Power Party (PPP), had told the media.

North Korea did not make any comments on the failed launch and state media is yet to respond to Wednesday's report from South Korean defense chiefs.

Since the beginning of the year, North Korea has conducted a flurry of missile tests in an apparent attempt to modernize its military arsenal and increase pressure on the United States amid stalled nuclear talks between the two countries.

dvv/kb (AFP, AP)