North Korea’s commitment to its indigenous weapons programs remains strong.
Following an intensified period of weapons testing, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un granted promotions to scores of scientists involved in the country’s munitions industry, a state media article published Tuesday noted. The decision came just three days after the introduction of new type of ballistic missile on Saturday during a test from the country’s east coast.
“Our reliable scientists in the field of national defense science research, who are firmly equipped with the WPK’s revolutionary idea, performed feats to be specially recorded by developing and completing new powerful weapon systems one after another which are of key importance in defending the Party, the revolution, the country and the people and guaranteeing the victorious advance of the revolutionary cause of Juche with matchless military strength,” an article on the decision in state newspaper Rodong Sinmun noted, paraphrasing remarks made by Kim.
“He, in the name of the Party and government, highly praised the scientists in the field of national defense science research for providing an epoch-making turning point in bolstering up the country’s military capabilities for self-defense and successfully implementing the strategic plan and intention of the Party by settling highly difficult technological problems of the ultra-modern national defense science,” the article continued.
Kim conferred a higher military rank on 103 North Korean scientists involved in these efforts. The names of the scientists were published on the front page of Tuesday’s edition of Rodong Sinmun, emphasizing their feats. The promotions marked a rare celebration of the feats of scientists in North Korea’s munitions industry since the end of 2017. In 2017, the scientists were celebrated after each test of North Korea’s two separate intercontinental-range ballistic missile designs and after the September nuclear test.
The statement’s reference to the 8th Conference of the Munitions Industry refers to a December 2017 meeting, where Kim set forth a continuing agenda on ballistic missile development among other objectives. On January 1, 2018, before the turn toward diplomacy last year, Kim used the occasion of his New Year’s Day to call for the mass production of ballistic missiles and nuclear weapons.
Starting in May, Kim Jong Un has overseen flight-testing of three new systems: a short-range, solid-fuel quasi-ballistic missile known by the U.S. intelligence community as the KN25, a short-range, large-caliber multiple launch rocket system, and a short-range, solid-fuel ballistic missile. The KN23 has been tested most frequently and appears to be designed to evade U.S. and South Korean missile defense systems.