North Korea test-fired the ICBM (believed to be a Hwasung-15 according to the latest ROK and US intelligence reports) towards the East Sea (Sea of Japan) on March 24th at 2:34 p.m. The launch was supervised by Kim Jong Un himself . The ICBM flew 1090 km with the altitude of 6238.5 km for 4052 seconds. Considering that the missile launch was a vertical fire, it is reported that Hwasung-17 could reach the entire U.S. mainland when fired directly.
In response to this launch amidst the government transition after the presidential election on March 9th, the ROK military forces immediately counteracted by holding a joint firing exercise from ground, sea, and air on the same day at 4:25 p.m., which was just two hours after North Korea launched the ICBM. This firing exercise was held for the first time since the end of 2017.
In particular, the ROK Navy’s Sejong the Great-class Aegis destroyer (DDG) fired a land attack cruise missile Haesung II against a target representative of a North Korean missile launching vehicle. Haesung II, loaded both on the KDX II and KDX III of the ROK Navy, is capable of striking most of the military facilities in North Korea. Haesung also reaches any targets located up to 500-1000 km as it is based on the land-based cruise missile Hyunmoo 3-C that has a firing range of 1500 km. The missile was first loaded on the 4,500 tons Chungmugong Yi Sun-sin-class (KDX II) destroyers in 2012, followed by placement on the Sejong the Great-class (KDX III) Aegis ships.
The U.S. think-tank CSIS (Center of Security and International Studies) classifies Haesung II as an offensive supersonic surface-to-ground missile. According to the CSIS, Haesung II has a length of 5.5m, diameter of 45cm, weight of 1.4t, using GPS and inertial guidance (IG) which enables to reset the target and change its course after launch. The exact weight of its payload remains unclear.
Regarding the firing exercise, the ROK Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) explained:
“We launched three missiles from ground, sea, and air, which simultaneously destroyed the selected three mock enemy targets. This joint firing exercise was conducted based on the goal of eliminating hostile missile bases at once with joint precision strike, while detecting provocative signals with our reconnaissance and surveillance assets and enhancing the defense posture.”
The meaning of this counter-responsive missile launch was reportedly a show of force to warn North Korea that the ROK armed forces are monitoring the North’s military movement all the time. The exercise also demonstrated the ROK armed forces capability and willingness to precisely strike the origin of provocation when the North Korean KPA (Korean People’s Army) engages in provocations.