North Korea, claiming to be running a satellite program, has developed a 'monster missile' it could test in April, which will shift the balance of power in the region and test the toughness of South Korea's new president , analysts predict.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un said last year that improving the country's military capabilities was a priority for the regime.

Since January, Pyongyang has carried out nine missile tests, a record in such a short time.

An intercontinental ballistic missile

Main priority: to develop an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) capable of carrying several conventional or nuclear warheads, each following an independent trajectory, difficult to intercept by United States anti-missile systems.

This missile, the Hwasong-17, has been dubbed the "monster missile" by military analysts.

It was shown at a parade in Pyongyang in October 2020 and has never been tested.

But the United States and South Korea accuse the North Korean regime of having recently tested parts of it, under the guise of what were presented as satellite launch tests.

An imminent blow

North Korea has observed a self-imposed moratorium on ICBM launches since 2017.

But international sanctions, imposed in retaliation against its missile and nuclear weapons program, continue to weigh heavily on its economy, negotiations have stalled and many experts are predicting an imminent coup.

“I think the moratorium is over.

We should expect a resumption of ICBM testing,” said Ankit Panda, a US-based security analyst.

Two missile tests, on February 27 and March 5, "seem to have used parts, or possibly all of the rocket motor that was seen on the ICBM Hwasong-17", he explains. he.

"Day of the Sun"

This expert also does not rule out the possibility that these two tests also related to the device allowing “to carry several heads in order to strike different targets with the same missile”.

To date, North Korea has not yet demonstrated that it has mastered this technology, even if it launched three times in 2017 ICBMs capable of reaching the west coast of the United States.

Most analysts expect the date chosen for the firing of the "monster missile" to be April 15, the "Day of the Sun", which marks the anniversary (110 years this year) of the founder of the North Korea Kim Il Sung.

It is the most important date on the North Korean political calendar.

This possible test would come at a delicate time in the region, while in South Korea the conservative Yoon Suk-yeol has just been elected president and will succeed Moon Jae-in in May, a supporter of a thaw with the North.

"Rude Boy"

Yoon Suk-yeol advocates firmness towards Pyongyang.

He called Kim Jong-un a "rude boy" and promised to "teach him some manners".

He did not rule out launching a preemptive strike against the North.

Such intransigence risks escalating, said Yang Moo-jin, a professor at the University of North Korean Studies.

New sanctions will probably be adopted after the test of the super-missile, "to which Pyongyang will respond with even more weapons tests", he predicts.

"At the end of the day, tensions on the Korean Peninsula are likely to escalate even further," warns Yang Moo-jin.

A “serious escalation”

Marking a nearly five-year hiatus from ICBM testing, Pyongyang 'sought to make room for diplomacy and avoid further sanctions', but never stopped working on missile diversification , says Leif-Eric Easley, a professor at Ehwa University in Seoul.

And in the end, "to ensure their precision and their reentry capabilities in the atmosphere, these weapons must be tested," he adds.

Washington accused North Korea of ​​preparing this launch "potentially disguised as a space operation" and denounced a "serious escalation".

Kim Jong-un on Thursday visited North Korea's satellite testing center and called for its modernization and expansion, according to state media.

Some analysts consider the reactions of the United States and South Korea to be excessive, and recall that Pyongyang has the right to develop a space program, even if civilian rockets have many characteristics in common with ICBMs. Owning a kitchen knife just because there's a chance you'll use it to kill someone, what will you do in your kitchen when you have to cook?

asks Cheong Seong-Chang, North Korea specialist at the Sejong Institute.

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