Camera mounted on North Korea missile takes snaps from space

North Korea’s latest test of its longest-range missile produced image of the Earth taken from space using an onboard camera, raising more concerns about the range of the missiles. — AFP)

If North Korea’s test of its longest-range missile in five years wasn’t worrying enough, the state’s official media released an image showing the Earth taken in space from a rocket designed to deliver a nuclear warhead.

Images of the weekend launch of its Hwasong-12 intermediate-range ballistic missile were splashed on the country’s biggest newspaper Monday. The photographs were taken "by a camera installed at the missile warhead” and released by the country’s Academy of Defense Science, the official Korean Central News Agency reported.

The missile North Korea fired Sunday reached a height of about 2,000 kilometres (1,240 miles), Japan and South Korea reported, the highest apogee of any North Korean missile since 2017.

It has a range of about 4,500 kms, according to weapons experts, which means it could hit US military bases in Guam.

Pyongyang has so far released two images taken from a camera on the missile reentry vehicle that look back at the planet, as well as images of the launch. Weapons expert Ankit Panda said North Korea has previously shown images of the Earth from a missile, with the first time being in May 2017.

Panda, a senior fellow in the nuclear policy program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, wrote in specialist publication NK News the launch also marked the 13th flight test of a new rocket engine.

That technology was tested twice this month when North Korea launched a new manoeuvrable reentry vehicle-equipped missile.

Prior to the Sunday launch, Kim had threatened to end his hiatus on tests of nuclear weapons and long-range missiles designed to deliver warheads to the US mainland that he put in place after 2017 to facilitate talks with then US President Donald Trump.

North Korea has also resumed plutonium-producing operations at its main Yongbyon nuclear site last year, while satellite imagery showed it expanding a plant that enriches uranium for weapons.

Shin Beom-chul, a researcher at the Korea Research Institute for National Strategy, said the images indicated North Korea’s confidence in its technological capability to target Guam, pressing US President Joe Biden as well as South Korea, before its presidential election in March. – Bloomberg

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