(SEOUL, South Korea) — North Korea’s long-range missile launch last week may have been a modified version of a type they tested in 2017, not the newly developed type of intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) Pyongyang claims to have fired, according to South Korean lawmakers who were briefed by South Korea’s military in a closed meeting Tuesday.
“South Korea and the U.S. intelligence concluded that North Korea’s claim is false, that it was actually Hwasong-15 [not Hwasong-17]. That’s why we are saying that North Korea is deceiving,” Min Hong Chul, a South Korean lawmaker from the ruling Democratic Party and a former general in the army, told reporters.
Hwasong-15 refers to the type of ICBM North Koreans successfully tested in November 2017. It was tested again two weeks ago in a failed attempt. Hwasong-17 is the type that Pyongyang announced to have successfully launched last Thursday.
South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff had confirmed the latest launch saying the missile flew 671 miles at an altitude of 3,852.5 miles.
Regardless of whether that missile was the new or old type, South Korean and Japanese military analysis confirmed the trajectory shows a considerable improvement in technology, and the range and scale of the ICBM could potentially reach New York or Washington.
South Korea’s opposition lawmaker Ha Tae-keung also claimed that his North Korea sources witnessed “debris falling from the skies in Pyongyang area” on the day of the failed launch on March 16. So in order to make up for the failure and loss of credibility to the people, he told reporters, the country may have exaggerated the success of the latest launch, upgrading it to a new missile type.
However, Ha’s claims about debris were dismissed by other lawmakers and defense officials as it can not be verified at the moment.
North Korea’s state television on Friday had widely reported the launch through a 12-minute-long, theatrical video claiming this “new Hwasong-17” will “mark the end to a self-imposed moratorium on testing long-range missiles since 2017” and “make the whole world clearly aware of the power of our strategic armed forces once again.”
The meticulously produced Hollywood-style video showed leader Kim Jong-Un directing the launch wearing a black leather jacket and black sunglasses, including a slow-motion video of him strutting through the launch area in front of the missile. Many analysts believe from the video that the footage was shot on different dates.
ABC News’ Hakyung Kate Lee contributed to this report.
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