Due to the growing obsolescence of North Korea’s conventional military capabilities, North Korea has pivoted towards a national security strategy based on asymmetric capabilities and weapons of mass destruction. As such, it has invested heavily in the development of increasingly longer range ballistic missiles, and the miniaturization of its nascent nuclear weapons stockpile. North Korea is reliant on these capabilities to hold U.S., allied forces, and civilian areas at risk. North Korea’s short- and medium-range systems include a host of artillery and short-range rockets, including its legacy Scud missiles, No-Dong systems, and a newer mobile solid-fueled SS-21 variant called the KN-02. North Korea has also made strides towards long-range missile technology, testing for the first time an intercontinental ballistic missile, the Hwasong-14, in July 2017. It is believed that North Korea was able to develop some of this technology under the auspices of its Unha (Taepo-Dong 2) space launch program, with which it has used to put crude satellites into orbit. North Korea has displayed two other long-range ballistic missiles, the KN-08 and KN-14, but thus far these missiles have not been flight tested. North Korea’s ballistic missile program was one of the primary motives by the decision to develop and deploy the U.S. Ground-based Midcourse Defense system to protect the U.S. homeland.
North Korean Missile Naming Conventions
Multiple naming conventions are used to refer to North Korean missiles, which can cause confusion. The North Koreans most often use the label Hwasong followed by a number to refer to a specific missile type. U.S. designations for North Korean missiles often use the “KN” prefix. For example, the KN-08 is referred to by North Korean as the Hwasong-13. Other missiles were named by western observers after towns near where the missiles were first test fired. The No Dong, Musudan (Hwasong 10) and Taepodong missiles fall within this convention.