A view of the newly developed intercontinental ballistic rocket Hwasong-15's test. Photo: Reuters via KCNA

Missile expert Joe Cirincione says the Hwasong-15 intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) tested by North Korea on November 29 is a “game changer” insofar as photos show a nose cone big enough to carry multiple warheads.

Cirincione’s analysis, posted Tuesday on military website Defense One, also says that the cone of the North Korean ICBM appears capable of accommodating countermeasures that US missile defenses haven’t been tested against.

“It’s the front end of the missile that changes everything,” Cirincione wrote. “These video and photos … show North Korean leader Kim Jong-un standing next to the huge, new transporter-erecter vehicle that is carrying the missile, prominently featuring its large, blunt nose cone.”

“Even a casual observer can see that the missile could carry many Kim-sized objects within the nose cone. Nuclear warheads are typically the size of an average person or smaller,” added Cirincione, whose assessments of earlier rocket launches by Pyongyang proved accurate.

He noted that the relatively huge Hwasong-15 nose cone appears to have room for decoys, chaff, jammers and other countermeasures alongside its warheads.

“How will our defensive systems function against this threat? We have no basis for confidence. Our missile defenses have never undergone stringent, realistic tests,” the analyst warned.

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