Track topics on Twitter Track topics that are important to you
Kim Jong-un, the North Korean dictator, has ordered his scientists to step up production of warheads and solid fuel rocket engines for long-range ballistic missiles. Requests in recent days from both South Korea and the United States for Pyongyang to halt its provocations and return to the discussion table appear to have fallen on deaf ears after Mr Kim was shown making his demand during a visit to the Chemical Material Institute of the Academy of Defence Sciences. "He instructed the institute to produce more solid-fuel rocket engines and rocket warhead tips" through the use of carbon compounds, the Korean Central News Agency reported on Wednesday. Pictures show Mr Kim touring the research facility, trailed by uniformed officials assiduously scribbling in notebooks. Pukguksong-3 pic.twitter.com/Cf2Uz9unwU— Dave Schmerler (@DaveSchmerler) August 23, 2017 The displays and diagrams on the walls of the facility provided further hints about the regime's missile programmes, including the Pukguksong-2, an intermediate-range ballistic missile that is under development and was first test launched in February this year. The nuclear-capable missile uses a solid-fuel propellant and is a significant improvement on the regime's earlier weapons, which were liquid-fuelled and took a long time to prepare for launch, making them easier to detect and counteract. Road-mobile, the 30-foot Pukguksong-2 is believed to have a range of more than 1,200 miles. If I understand North Korean propaganda, this is their way of telling us what we'll see in the air in the coming year.— Jeffrey Lewis (@ArmsControlWonk) August 23, 2017 The images have caused renewed concern among experts, with Jeffrey Lewis, the US expert in nuclear and nonproliferation and geopolitics, tweeting, "Maybe we should stop underestimating them". George Herbert, an analyst, broke down the implications on Twitter, adding: "Today is a very bad day." Mr Kim's latest "field guidance" is the first since August 14, when he visited the headquarters of the arm of the North Korean military that conducts missile launches. In July, North Korea fired two Hwasong-14 intercontinental ballistic missiles, which analysts believe have the range to reach virtually all the continental US. Questions remain, however, over whether the North's scientists have been able to achieve atmospheric re-entry for a warhead. Graphic: North Korea missile launch Most recently, North Korea threatened to launch intermediate-range missiles into waters close to the US Pacific territory of Guam, which is a major military hub. The US and South Korea are currently conducting military exercises, which Pyongyang has declared are a rehearsal for an invasion of the North and has warned will lead to unspecified retaliation.