Due to the growing obsolescence of North Korea’s conventional military capabilities, North Korea has pivoted towards a national security strategy based on asymmetric capabilities and weapons of mass destruction. Pyongyang has invested heavily in the development of increasingly longer range ballistic missiles and the miniaturization of its nascent nuclear weapons stockpile. North Korea uses these capabilities to hold U.S., allied forces, and civilian areas at risk as a means to preserve the Kim family regime.

North Korea’s short- and medium-range systems include a host of artillery and short-range rockets, including its legacy Scud-based and No-Dong missiles. In 2019, North Korea tested a range of new short-range, solid-fueled missiles such as the KN-23 and KN-25.

North Korea has also made strides towards long-range missile technology, testing for the first time an intercontinental ballistic missile, the Hwasong-14, in July 2017. This was followed by a test of a heavier ICBM design, the Hwasong-15, in November 2017. North Korea developed some of this technology under the auspices of its Unha (Taepo-Dong 2) space launch program, with which it has used to put crude satellites into orbit. North Korea has displayed two other long-range ballistic missiles, the KN-08 and KN-14, but thus far these missiles have not been flight tested, and it is unclear whether they are still active development programs.

North Korea’s intercontinental ballistic missile program was one of the primary motives for the decision to develop and deploy the U.S. Ground-based Midcourse Defense System to protect the U.S. homeland.

North Korean Missiles

Missile Types

Missile
Pukguksong-3 (KN-26)
KN-25
KN-23
Hwasong-15
KN-06
M1985/M1991
Koksan M1978
Hwasong-14
KN-09
Kumsong-3
Hwasong-12
KN-18 (Scud MaRV Variant)
Pukguksong-2 (KN-15)
Pukguksong-1 (KN-11)
No-Dong
Taepodong-1
Taepodong-2
KN-14
KN-08
BM-25 Musudan
Hwasong-9 (Scud-ER)
Hwasong-6
Hwasong-5
KN-01
KN-02

See database: North Korea Missile Launches: 1984-Present