The strategic triangle between the United States, Japan and South Korea is strained by the advanced capabilities of the North Korean ICBM, the  Hwasong-18, and the shadows of Russian technological collaboration in its conception.

A firm trilateral commitment

In a gesture of solidarity and joint concern, leaders from the United States, Japan and South Korea, meeting at Camp David, endorsed the importance of effective cooperation against ballistic threats. They highlighted the activation of a real-time monitoring and alert mechanism for missile launches from the DPRK.

Given the growing threat that looms on the horizon, it is vital to streamline such monitoring systems.

Recent CSIS studies, courtesy of Theodore Postol, reveal that  North Korea’s Hwasong-18  is a solid-fuel-powered technological gem that could have more of a Russian twist to its engineering.

Features of the Topol-M on the Hwasong-18

This North Korean ballistic missile resembles the renowned Russian Topol-M ICBM (SS-27 Mod 2) missile. Similar diameters and coincident operational capacities support the theory of knowledge transfer between Pyongyang and Moscow.

Considering the complexity inherent in developing solid fuel technologies, the hypothesis of a Russian collaboration becomes more and more plausible. A technical analysis reveals that it is not just a coincidence but a direct connection between the design of the  Hwasong-18  and the Topol-M.

Additionally, the speed of development of this ICBM in North Korea suggests support not from individual actors but from an entity with deep resources and experience.

A barrage of advanced North Korean systems

The Korean Peninsula has witnessed the rapid evolution of North Korean weapons systems. One sees, for example, a North Korean version of the Iskander short-range ballistic missile, which echoes the American MGM-140 ATACMS system.

In addition to this weaponry, Pyongyang has honed its hypersonic capability and long-range rocket launchers. These developments do not emerge out of thin air, and the clues point north again towards Russia.

The sanctions imposed on Russian entities in recent years are a window into the fabric of arms proliferation destined for North Korea.

The Hwasong-18, a transpacific threat

The North Korean arsenal has traditionally been tactical and focused on the peninsula. However, the  Hwasong-18  is a different game. Its intercontinental reach and potential capabilities make it a direct threat to US territory.

Kim Jong Un’s rapid acquisition of this ICBM suggests a coordinated effort to equip North Korea with tactical systems and strategic weaponry. The United States and its South Korean and Japanese allies must reconsider their defensive approach.