North Korea Fine Tunes its Precision Strike Capabilities Amidst Pandemic

Ballistic Missiles, Military
, by On March 29, 2020 at 6:10 am KST, North Korea launched two projectiles speculated to be short-range ballistic missiles from the Wonsan area in Kangwon province into the sea between Korea and Japan. The missiles traveled a distance of 230 kilometers (143 miles) and reached a peak altitude of 30 kilometers (19 miles). An announcement published in North Korean state media the following day confirmed that the two missiles were launched as part of super-large multiple rocket launcher tests. It also stated the test was carried out by the Academy of Defence Science.

“Fire and Fury 2?”: Q1 2020 Provocations Reminiscent of Q1 2017

Ballistic Missiles, Military
, by and On March 21, 2020 North Korea launched two projectiles from Sonchon county in North Pyongan province towards the East Sea. The launches took place 5 minutes apart at 6:45am and 6:50am KST, respectively. The projectiles traveled a distance of 410km (255 miles) at a maximum altitude of 50km (31 miles) and closely resemble the KN-24 short-range ballistic missile system. This is the third event of Q1 in 2020, which is equivalent to the number of missile provocations in Q1 of 2017 during the “Fire and Fury” era.

The First North Korean Weapons Test of the Year: What Does It Mean?

Military
, by and On March 2, 2020 at 12:37pm (KST), North Korea launched two short-range projectiles from the Wonsan, Kangwon Province area towards the East Sea. The projectiles traveled a distance of 240km (150 miles) at a maximum altitude of 35km (22 miles) with a 20-second interval between the two launches. While the exact type and model of the projectiles are yet to be confirmed, considering the nature of the test they may be SRBMs or new surface-to-surface missiles. The short interval time also indicates that the event may have been a multiple rocket launcher system test.

Yongbyon Update: February Movement of Radioactive Material? Pt. II

Military, Nuclear Weapons
, by and Satellite imagery acquired on February 14, 2020 shows that the three specialized railcars identified in Beyond Parallel’s report from February 11, 2020 have been moved from west of the Radiochemistry Laboratory to the southern rail yard adjacent to the reported isotope/tritium production facility. A fourth railcar is present in the latest imagery in addition to the three railcars that were captured in imagery from February 10, 2020. These railcars have been associated with the movement of radioactive material in the past. If past practice is any indication, all four cars will leave the Yongbyon facility sometime during the next seven days.

Yongbyon Update: February Movement of Radioactive Material?

Nuclear Weapons
, by and Satellite imagery acquired on February 10, 2020 shows the presence of three specialized railcars that have been associated with the movement of radioactive material in the past. The last observed presence of these railcars by Beyond Parallel was in November 2019. The size and number of the casks observed on the railcars suggest the outbound shipment of irradiated liquid or solid waste, disassembled but contaminated equipment or, potentially, the movement of fissile materials. A less likely alternative is the inbound shipment of radioactive material.

Novel Coronavirus Poses Unique Pandemic Threat to North Korea

Health
Image credit: Roman Harak flickr photostream.
, by and Reports of the novel coronavirus 2019-nCoV spreading to regions bordering North Korea could pose a real risk to the North Korean people. Policy debates on North Korea tend to underestimate health as one of the regime’s key vulnerabilities. North Korea’s insecurities about its health system have been evident in its draconian responses to past pandemics including SARS (2002-2003), Middle East respiratory syndrome [MERS] (2012), and Ebola (2018).

Impact Player: Ri Son-gwon

Foreign Affairs
, by and Ri Son-gwon is the newly appointed Minister of Foreign Affairs of North Korea. He is a former military official in the Korean People’s Army (KPA) and the former head of North Korea’s Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Country (CPRC), the bureau in charge of inter-Korean relations.

A Vase or a Missile? North Korea’s Christmas Surprise

Commentary
, by Christmas passed without the threatened “Christmas gift” from North Korea. President Trump quipped while on holiday in Mar-a-Lago that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un might send him a “beautiful vase” rather than a missile as a gift. In either event, the two years of summit diplomacy and Trump-Kim “bromance” appears to have reached a turning point with no progress on denuclearization since the failed Hanoi summit and a series of North Korean missile tests in the past two months.

December 2019 Update: Chamjin-ni Vertical Engine Test Stand

Military, Nuclear Weapons
, by and The Chamjin-ni vertical engine test stand appears to be minimally maintained but apparently capable and available for engine testing at any time. It is North Korea’s oldest known test stand, developed in the 1980s. There is no evidence of recent tests. This is indicated by the absence of scarring in the exhaust deflector and color-infrared imagery showing healthy vegetation at the end of the exhaust deflector.