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New ballistics from North Korea. Which regions of Ukraine are in danger

Kim Jong-un
Kim Jong-un

How real is the threat from the military alliance between Russia and North Korea, and what other weapons can the enemy get?

On January 2, 2024, one of the North Korean-made missiles, the KN-23, most likely hit Kharkiv. Outwardly, it is an exact copy of the Russian 9M723 ballistic missile for the Iskander system.

However, the North Korean munition differs from its Russian counterpart in details. After all, why was it assumed that the KN-23 missile was used? The shape of the gas-dynamic rudders on the tail of this missile is much smaller than that of the Russian Iskander-M. This missile has a rectangular shape, while the Russian 9M723 has a rounded shape. This is due to North Korea’s lower level of technical proficiency. The DPRK received a general technology from Russia, but it cannot copy the Russian analog completely and to such a high quality. These small elements made it possible to establish that it was most likely a KN-23, also known as a Hwasong-11Ga.

Now, there will be a lot of speculation and manipulation about what characteristics these missiles have, sometimes with inflated figures attached to them.

Some of the characteristics of these missiles have yet to be determined. North Korea is a closed country, and it is impossible to know for sure. After all, even the name KN-23 is not the actual North Korean name for this missile. This is the name under which it is listed in US intelligence reports.

As for the characteristics of this missile, it is stated that the range is 690 km. The warhead's weight is 500kg, with a total weight of just under 3.5 tons.

No one knows for sure what the characteristics of the kn-23 missile are

That is, the range is longer than that of the 9M723 Iskander, the warhead's weight is the same, and the total weight of the missile is lower. It turns out that the performance is better than that of its Russian counterpart. But I have my doubts. After all, if North Korea failed to make its gas-dynamic rudders rounded, but left them rectangular and cut off at the corners, then there are doubts that the DPRK could reduce the total mass of the missile while still increasing its range by 190 km.

There is an interesting point here. In August last year, in the presence of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, demonstration launches of these missiles were conducted in North Korea, and the range of 430 km was verified and recorded. That is 70 kilometers less than the Iskander-M. This is what I believe more than the claims that the KN-23 has a range of almost 700 km.

Those regions of Ukraine that fall within the verified kill zone of this missile are in danger. However, on the other hand, the Russians used this missile to hit Kharkiv. This is the minimum distance from the border with Russia. Even if we take a security buffer of 100 kilometers, it is still a relatively small distance. That's why I suspect that this missile has imperfect reliability characteristics.

In 1989, North Korea supplied Hwasong-5 missiles to the United Arab Emirates. They initially bought these munitions, but then decommissioned them because their quality was so low that the missiles posed a threat to the UAE troops themselves. Finally, even in 2023, there were repeated reports that the Russian occupiers complained that the ammunition they received from North Korea (primarily 152- and 122-caliber shells for cannon artillery, as well as 122-caliber shells for BM-21 Grad MLRS) differed from Russian ammunition of the same caliber. The North Korean shells are low-quality, so they frequently jam or backfire. The DPRK has no technical standards for their production.

The main issue is the number of missiles the Russians have now received. North Korea has a lot of rockets, and we have to admit it. This country has been implementing its missile program for decades, and it not only has a large number of ballistic missiles based on Soviet, Chinese, and Russian technologies, but it has also been actively exporting them to the UAE, Iran, and other countries.

For example, the Hwasong-5 missile I mentioned, which the DPRK made based on the Soviet R-17 liquid-fuel ballistic missile for the Elbrus missile defense system, was exported to Iran in 1985 and later to the UAE. In addition, Pyongyang exported its missiles to Syria, Yemen, and Vietnam. Hundreds of units were exported.

In nine years, North Korea has been able to produce thousands of Hwasong-6 ballistic missiles and exported 500 of them to Yemen, Syria, and Iran. That is, the DPRK is not spending missiles, but accumulating them.

Russia's alleged use of North Korean ballistic missiles shows that, on the one hand, it is a demonstration that Russia is currently having severe problems with the production of its own missiles, such as the 9M723 and 9M728 for the Iskander, and is therefore forced to look for replacements from other suppliers, such as Iran and North Korea.

Read also: Three conclusions after Russia's missile attack on Ukraine on January 8

On the other hand, this is a problem, since the DPRK did not need its stockpiles for war, but produced and accumulated them. And no one has stopped it for decades. Even when the DPRK demonstrated its KN-23 in 2019, no one imposed additional sanctions against Russia. However, the KN-23 is a twin missile of the 9M723 for the Iskander air defense system.

However, despite the problems with production, Russia continues to produce missiles for the Iskander. And the Russians will now use them in conjunction with the North Korean nomenclature.

These ballistic missiles will not change the situation critically. The fact is that when the Russians launched their full-scale invasion of Ukraine, they had a considerable number of Iskander missiles. They used dozens of them a day. Now, even with the help of the DPRK, they cannot reach the level they had at the beginning of the invasion.

The problem may arise when Russia needs fewer missiles or ammunition, but more equipment, especially mechanized equipment. Then, the aggressor will turn to North Korea to supply Russia with tanks, artillery, and so on.

Read also: Three powerful missile attacks in a short time. What is Russia's goal?

Of course, Pyongyang needs all of this itself. Its military-industrial complex has been accumulating all this, but it does not have such a frantic and large production. And Kim Jong-un needs these weapons himself. But the question is the price. What is Russia willing to give North Korea to get all this? And is North Korea willing to do so? Russia can offer the DPRK aircraft in exchange for such equipment. Today, North Korea does not have more modern aviation. Therefore, this could be a very interesting element in relations between Russia and North Korea.

There are ways to counteract the military alliance between Russia and North Korea. It is possible to carry out precision strikes on the military-industrial complex of North Korea. It is always possible to counteract such rogue states and bring them to the point where they can produce such products. It would be enough to raze it to the ground every time the DPRK started constructing such an enterprise.

However, we do not live in the time of Margaret Thatcher or Ronald Reagan. We are now living in the times of a spineless, amorphous, let's say, tolerant West. It is quite tolerant of those threats that may even destroy its democratic values in the future.

Therefore, in my opinion, dictatorships and tyrannies can only be dealt with by destroying them or keeping them at a zero level of development. If this is not done, then any tyranny or dictatorship will raise its head and, in 10, 20, 30, or 40 years, gain power. This will then be a big problem for generations that do not deserve it and is the result of the inability of previous generations to cope with this threat.

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Read the original article on The New Voice of Ukraine