North Korean nuclear weapons correspond to a large range of delivery vehicles for both strategic and tactical strikes. The first group includes Hwasong-type ICBMs, the liquid-fuel Hwasong-16 and the solid-fuel Hwasong-17 and Hwasong-18. Although the missiles were launched along a high-altitude trajectory, calculations show that they can reach the continental United States, and the range of the Hwasong-17 is 15,000 km. According to the Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA),
it can be equipped with a super-heavy nuclear warhead or a warhead with multiple nuclear warheads.
Not all experts accept the possibility that both North Korean ICBMs are capable of surviving re-entry into the Earth's atmosphere. However, the option of an atmospheric explosion at an altitude of 40-50 km is capable of damaging electronics over large areas, and it is also under consideration.
Moreover, in addition to ground-based launchers, North Korea is armed with at least one submarine, potentially equipped with Pukguksong missiles with a nuclear warhead. Launches from sites located under the surface of a lake were also tested.
The range of missiles designed to defeat nearby enemies such as the United States and South Korea is significantly more diverse. These include the Hwasal-1 and Hwasal-2 cruise missiles (range 1,500 and 2,000 km), including those which are launchable from a submarine, the Haeil underwater kamikaze drone, and a missile with a hypersonic glider, which is estimated to be capable of hitting Seoul within one or two minutes after launch.
Among the short-range ballistic missiles, we note the KN-23 tactical missile systems, which have a range of 800 km (the so-called “Kimskander”) and the KN-24 systems, which have a range of over 400 km (the North Korean version of ATACMS), as well as the KN-25 ultra-large-calibre (600 mm) MLRS, which actually fires missiles with the intensity of a Katyusha rocket system, blurring the line between missile systems and multiple launch rocket systems.
At a minimum, the KN-23, KN-24 and KN-25 can carry the Hwasong-31 tactical nuclear warhead, the markings on which may indicate mass production. According to preliminary estimates, its estimated power does not exceed 10 kilotons, and its diameter is about 40-50 cm, which allows it to be installed on a number of carriers.
Only in early 2024, North Korea tested a number of missiles under development
, including a solid-fuel medium-range ballistic missile equipped with a hypersonic manoeuvrable guided warhead, an underwater strike nuclear drone and submarine-launched cruise missiles.
At the same time, training launches and exercises to test combat readiness take place regularly
, often in the presence of Kim Jong-un, whose military education allows him to carry out professional, rather than “general” process management. The number of fired missiles suggests that we are not talking about single experimental samples, but about mass production.