“The simplest answer is they launched the big one on March 16,” the arms control policy expert told the podcast. “They filmed it… but it blew up, and they couldn’t announce it.” It’s still unknown where the second, smaller missile was launched from.
Of course, Lewis and his team are not the first group to make this point. Back at the end of March, the South Korean Defense Ministry also endorsed analysts’ views that their northern antagonists fired an older, previously successful Hwasong-15 ICBM, while claiming it was the Hwasong-17.
Lewis’ latest findings effectively corroborate these past reports. Back at the end of March, North Korea News also similarly showed that the March 24 missile launch included footage that was filmed earlier that same month. The South Korea-based news site compared burned grass on different ends of the nearby airfield taken March 24 to compare them to images taken a week before. In addition, there were bunkers at a nearby artillery post that appeared to have changed between the two missile launch dates, but North Korea’s video of their Hwasong-17 launch did not display those additions.
There were also issues with the direction of the sun compared to North Korea’s reported timing of events. The March 24 launch supposedly took place after midday, but the video makes it appear like it happened in the morning.
It’s not the first time the DPRK faked a missile test. U.S. experts previously said a video of a 2016 submarine ballistic missile test produced by North Korea was also a fake.
But of course, it’s still important to remember that even with failed tests like these, North Korea still has the capability of hitting the U.S. with a nuclear warhead. Kim Jong-un has conducted dozens more missile tests than either of his predecessors combined. Lewis said that what North Korea really wants to do is put more than one nuclear warhead on a missile in order to overcome current missile defense systems. But what these fakes prove is how important this missile-based threat is to the DPRK.
“When you catch someone in a lie, then you’ve learned something really interesting about what they care about,” Lewis told Click Here podcast host Dina Temple-Raston. “You know what they want you to think, and you know what they want you to not know.”