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Pyongyang may possess new type of Scud: KN-17

Apr 20,2017
Introducing North Korea’s new missile: the KN-17.

Citing unnamed U.S. officials, Fox News reported Monday that the North’s failed missile on Sunday was a new type of Scud that could be used to target ships, adding that another failed missile fired on April 5 appeared to be a similar kind.

The KN-17, according to Pentagon officials, is a single-stage, liquid-fueled missile.

If true, this would mean Pyongyang is developing anti-ship ballistic missiles (ASBMs), which the JoongAng Ilbo exclusively reported on March 14 in an earlier article. Multiple sources from the South’s Ministry of National Defense told the paper last month that the North mastered target tracking capabilities and tested them last September and in February this year through extended range Scud missiles.

An ASBM is a missile system designed to hit targets in the sea, such as warships. It stands out from ordinary ballistic missiles in that the warhead is capable of searching for the current location of a moving target and veering itself towards it, instead of dropping on the spot it was initially aimed at.

China and Iran are the only known countries to have the technology. Local military sources said at that time Iran could have backed up an essential part of the needed technology for the North.

A nod from the Pentagon that North Korea is developing an ASBM comes as the U.S. Navy’s Carl Vinson Strike Group is expected to arrive in South Korea’s East Sea next Tuesday. Pyongyang has been stating through its state media that the carrier’s arrival is proof that the United States is preparing for an invasion.

The strike group will likely take part in a joint military drill between South Korean and U.S. militaries.

Chances remain low at this point that the North’s ASBM poses a direct threat to neighboring countries because the regime does not have a satellite that can locate any targets.

The North’s latest missile test on Sunday, the fifth this year, was held a single day after a military parade at Kim Il Sung Square in Pyongyang celebrating the 105th birthday of the late leader, Kim Il Sung. The test ended in failure, as the missile blew up almost immediately after liftoff.

The missile was fired from the eastern port city of Sinpo in Hamgyong Province at around 6:20 a.m., where the North previously tested submarine-launched ballistic missiles.

Twelve days earlier, on April 5, another missile was launched just hours before Chinese President Xi Jinping and his wife arrived at the Mar-a-Lago estate in West Palm Beach, Florida, for two days of bilateral talks with U.S. President Donald Trump.

It flew about 60 kilometers (37 miles) before crashing into the East Sea.

BY LEE SUNG-EUN [lee.sungeun@joongang.co.kr]