A mystery missile at North Korea's military parade should make the US worried

  • North Korea showed off a mystery missile that nobody had ever seen before at a military parade on Thursday.
  • Some experts think it looks like a newer Russian missile, which could indicate Moscow is giving covert aide to Pyongyang. Another expert believed it looked like a South Korean design.
  • Wherever the missile comes from, it poses a big problem for the US forces in South Korea, and could be used with devastating effect.

North Korea’s military parade on Thursday featured much of what we’ve come to expect from Pyongyang – grandiose speeches, choreographed crowds, and a procession of missiles.

But it also featured a mystery missile never before seen.

While many analysts focused on the big intercontinental missiles like the Hwasong-14 and Hwasong-15, and the threat they pose to the US mainland, a smaller missile slipped by relatively unnoticed.

Here are a few shots of the new system:

North korea parade mystery missileKCTV
North korea parade mystery missileKCTV

Twitter user @oryxspioenkop, author of the Oryx military blog, pointed out the system’s resemblance to a Russian system, the Iskander.

Take a look at the Iskander below:

Russia Iskander M missileBoevaya mashina via Wikimedia CommonsTransport Loader for Iskander-M system, view from above.

Justin Bronk, a military expert at the Royal United Services Institute, told Business Insider that North Korea’s mystery missiles “look enormously like Iskander missiles and not a missile that [North Korea has] been seen with before.”

Bronk pointed out that the former Soviet Union and now Russia have a long established history of helping North Korea with its missile program. Talented engineers left unemployed after the collapse of the Soviet Union often found good paying work in North Korea, according to Bronk.

But the Iskander isn’t a Cold War design. If Russia collaborated with North Korea as recently as the Iskander, it would have huge geopolitical implications, and would strain an already fraught US-Russian relationship.

The new missile is not confirmed to be a Russian design. Mike Elleman, a missile expert at the Institute of International Strategic Studies, said the missile was “inconsistent with Iskander” and that it was just as likely a clone of South Korea’s Hyunmoo-2 missile system. North Korea has been known to hack South Korean defence information.

Regardless of origin, the little missile may be a big problem for the US

Whether Russia or South Korea was the origin of the information for the mystery missile, it poses a major threat to US forces in South Korea and in the region.

Bronk explained that North Korea’s current fleet of ballistic missiles don’t have the accuracy of more modern systems like the Iskander. If North Korea deployed the new, more accurate ballistic missiles, it could lay the ground work for an opening salvo on an attack on South Korea that could blindside and cripple the US.

With a large number of precise short range missiles, which the mystery missile appears to be, US missile defences could become overwhelmed. US military bases, airfields, and depots could all fall victim to the missile fire within the first few minutes of a conflict.

Whatever the origin, the appearance of this mystery missile likely has large geopolitical and tactical implications for the US’s push to denuclearize Pyongyang by force or diplomacy.

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