2017 marked a drastic turning point in North Korea’s long-range intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) program. On November 28, 2017, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) conducted a successful test launch of the HS-15 “Hwasong-15.” Not only did this test validate North Korea’s ability to develop long-range ICBMs, but it also showed they could test two ICBM designs in a single year. The HS-15 test was followed by a wind-down in testing and a diplomatic push on easing tensions and saw an increase in inter Korean interaction.
While the DPRK got further along in their liquid-fueled long-range missile program in 2017, North Korea had also more quietly been working at the same time on improving their short-range artillery and Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS) capability.
Before coming to power, Kim Jung-un had repeatedly pushed for the creation and development of new long-range artillery and systems with increased accuracy. This drive gained fervor following the artillery bombardment of Yeonpyeong island back in November of 2010. This skirmish reportedly resulted in Pyongyang’s front line units being reorganized and prompted a review of North Korean systems currently deployed.
From 2010 up to 2017, there were multiple visits by Kim to artillery units to review facilities and to observe mass artillery firing demonstrations. But with diplomatic talks, these events were overshadowed as attention was refocused on Kim’s visits to civilian infrastructure improvement projects.