North Korean leader Kim Jong Un observes the firing of suspected missiles
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un observes the firing of suspected missiles in this image released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on March 22, 2020. KCNA/via REUTERS Reuters

North Korea may have launched a military unit tasked with operating new intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) in line with its recent restructuring of the military, state media video footage suggested.

During a nighttime parade last week, North Korea showcased multiple ICBMs that are large enough to strike nearly anywhere in the world. The missiles included what some analysts said could be a prototype or mockup of a new solid-fuel ICBM in canister launchers.

A video aired on Feb. 9 by the reclusive country's official broadcaster and seen by Reuters on Wednesday showed that a previously unknown flag was attached to the new ICBM's launcher, indicating the military might have created a separate unit to operate the weapons.

Cho Han-bum, a senior fellow at the Korea Institute for National Unification in Seoul, said the flag "effectively confirmed the new ICBM unit" and could signal a forthcoming test of a solid-fuel weapon.

Many of North Korea's specialised units have their own flags. The ICBMs shown at past military parades were decorated with the national flag or nothing.

The new red-gold flag, with a black missile soaring into the sky inside a circle, was also displayed among other military flags when leader Kim Jong Un and his family walked into the parade venue.

Another flag was seen at the parade, apparently featuring the massive Hwasong-17 ICBM, which can most likely reach the U.S. mainland. It was marked with "2022.11," which could refer to the date when the North successfully launched the Hwasong-17 as it resumed ICBM testing for the first time since 2017.

The potential creation of the ICBM unit came after Kim called for developing more ICBMs and a larger nuclear arsenal this year to counter threats from the United States and its allies.

North Korea's state media reported on a restructuring of its Korean People's Army (KPA) and redesign of its flags this week, saying the change was in line with its push for "building a powerful army."

"Many units of services and arms of the People's Army have been expanded and reorganised, major operational combat duties assigned to them as required by the new situation and environment and the strategic and tactical missions of overall units changed," the official KCNA news agency said on Monday.