SEOUL—North Korea showed off what appeared to be at least one new long-range missile at a military parade Saturday, as tensions simmer over the possibility of a military confrontation between the U.S. and North Korea.
The weaponry on show, which appeared to include a newly-modified intercontinental ballistic missile and two types of large launchers with never-before-seen missile canisters, is likely to trigger fresh concerns about the speed with which Pyongyang’s missile program has advanced in recent years.
A spokesman for South Korea’s Ministry of National Defense declined to comment on the possible new military hardware, saying more time was needed to analyze the missiles.
But an expert on North Korean weapons said the new hardware appeared to be far more advanced than expected.
THE NORTH KOREAN CRISIS
“We’re totally floored right now,” said Dave Schmerler, a research associate at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies in Monterey, Calif. “I was not expecting to see this many new missile designs.”
Mr. Schmerler called the new ICBM, which appeared to have elements of two other ICBMS, the KN-08 and KN-14 missiles, a “frankenmissile.”
Missile experts said the new capabilities, if confirmed, may increase Pyongyang’s options as it seeks to test-launch a ICBM able to deliver a nuclear warhead to the continental U.S., as North Korean leader Kim Jong Un indicated in a speech in January. U.S. President Donald Trump responded after that new-year speech, posting on Twitter: “It won’t happen!”
‘We’re totally floored right now.’
North Korea showed off the new hardware Saturday at a parade—presided over by Mr. Kim—to mark the 105th anniversary of the birth of state founder Kim Il Sung. It took place in central Pyongyang before a crowd of foreign journalists and members of pro-North Korea groups from around the world.
The North also showed off two missile canisters that hadn’t been seen before and which appeared to be able to accommodate larger missiles than the North has ever displayed publicly. While the canisters may not contain missiles, experts said the display indicated the North’s intentions to build larger ICBMs.
“A lot of this may be intimidation or bluffing, but it’s potentially a sign of things to come,” Mr. Schmerler said.
North Korea also paraded a submarine-launched ballistic missile and a land-based variant, which it fired into the Sea of Japan during a February summit in Florida between Mr. Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
Ahead of the parade, the North Korean leader arrived in a limousine and walked along a red carpet as soldiers chanted “mansei,” or “long live.” Mr. Kim then appeared on a balcony overlooking Kim Il Sung Square to watch the parade.
North Korea experts monitoring footage of the march said Mr. Kim’s younger sister, Kim Yo Jong, was visible on the stage, as was Kim Won Hong, the head of North Korea’s secret police, who South Korean intelligence said this year had been removed.
The march came a day after Beijing urged the U.S. and North Korea to tone down their rhetoric, saying no one would win if there was a war.
“On the Korean Peninsula issue, it is not the one who espouses harsher rhetoric or raises a bigger fist that will win,” China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi said Friday.
Meanwhile, China’s flag carrier, Air China Ltd . , on Friday suspended flights to the North Korean capital. A spokeswoman for the carrier said the cancellation of the flights, which ran three times a week, was temporary and that it would consider passenger demand for future flights.
—Chun Han Wong and Te-Ping Chen contributed to this article.
Write to Jonathan Cheng at firstname.lastname@example.org
Tags: ballistic missiles, China, China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi, Dave Schmerler, frankenmissile, ICBM, Japan, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Kim Jong Un, KN-08, KN-14, Middlebury Institute of International Studies, new ICBM, North Korea, nuclear weapons, South Korea, U.S., U.S. President Donald Trump