Image: North Korean video screengrab.
North Korea shared footage of the launch of a nuclear-capable Hwasong-17 intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) on March 24 via state TV. The absurd sizzle reel features DPRK dictator Kim Jon Un in a leather coat and dark sunglasses walking in front of a gigantic Transporter Erector Launcher (TEL) flanked by military personnel while dramatic music plays.
This is the first time the West has seen the Hwasong-17 launch and also the first time we’ve seen a North Korean missile launch from a TEL. North Korea claimed this launch occurred on March 24, but there’s reason to suspect this was old footage repurposed for the media event.
According to DPRK state media, Kim personally directed the missile launch. The video depicts Kim pointing in various directions, checking his watch, and slowly walking away from the TEL as it raises the ICBM to the sky, ironically a cinematic trope established by the classic American movie The Right Stuff. Military personnel scream in triumph as they push the button to launch the missile and then clap, all smiles, as it vanishes in the sky.
The alleged March 24 missile launch follows two other tests in March and one in February. Both South Korea and Japan have warned in recent weeks that the DPRK is close to fielding a fully functional nuclear ICBM. It’s been four years since North Korea tested an ICBM capable of hitting the U.S.
It begs the question: Why is North Korea so hell-bent on showing off its ICBMs? The answer is simple. No one wants to invade a country capable of launching a nuke.