North Korea claims success after second hypersonic missile test this week


SEOUL, South Korea – North Korea says leader Kim Jong Un oversaw a successful flight test of a hypersonic missile that he claimed would increase the country’s nuclear “war deterrent”.

The report from North Korean state media on Wednesday came a day after the military in the United States, South Korea and Japan said they discovered that North Korea was firing a suspected ballistic missile into its eastern seas.

The Korean Central News Agency said Tuesday’s launch involved a hypersonic glider, which after its release from the rocket launcher demonstrated “glide jump flight” and “corkscrew maneuvering” before hitting an ocean target 1,000 kilometers (621 miles) away. Pictures released by the agency showed a missile mounted with a pointed conical payload hovering in the sky, leaving a trail of orange flames, and Kim looked from a small cabin with top officials, including his sister Kim Yo Jong.

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The launch was North Korea’s second test of its alleged hypersonic missile in a week, a type of weapon it first tested in September, when Kim Jong Un continues a defiant push to expand its nuclear weapons capabilities in the face of international sanctions, pandemic-related difficulties and deadlocks. diplomacy with the United States.

North Korea claims success after second hypersonic missile test this week

This photo provided by the North Korean government shows what it says, a test launch of a hypersonic missile on January 11, 2022 in North Korea. (Korean Central News Agency / Korea News Service via AP)

The Nordic region has increased its testing activity since last autumn in what experts see as an attempt to put more pressure on rivals Washington and Seoul to accept it as a nuclear power in hopes of winning relief from economic sanctions.

It was the first time since March 2020 that North Korean state media reported Kim’s participation in a missile test, according to the South Korean Association Ministry, which handles inter-Korean affairs.

Five-year plan

The KCNA said Kim praised the achievements of his military scientists and officials involved in the development of the hypersonic missile system, which he described as the most significant part of a new five-year plan announced in early 2021 to build it northern military force.

The Nordic region has described the new missile as part of its “strategic” weapons, which suggests that the system is being developed to supply nuclear weapons.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is seen at a meeting of a committee of the Workers' Party of Korea, September 3, 2017. (Korean Central News Agency via Getty Images)

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is seen at a meeting of a committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea, September 3, 2017. (Korean Central News Agency via Getty Images)

“The superior maneuverability of the hypersonic glider was more strikingly verified through the final test fire,” the KCNA said. It said Kim stressed the need to accelerate the expansion of the country’s “strategic military muscle in both quality and quantity and further modernize the army” and urged military researchers to continue their success by “remarkably increasing the country’s war deterrence”.

Hypersonic weapons flying at speeds above Mach 5, or five times the speed of sound, can pose a crucial challenge to missile defense systems because of their speed and maneuverability. Such weapons were on a wish list of sophisticated military assets, which Kim unveiled early last year along with multi-explosive missiles, spy satellites, long-range solid-fuel missiles and submarine-firing nuclear missiles.

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Experts say North Korea needs more successful and longer-range tests that will take years to develop a credible hypersonic system.

Kim’s participation in Tuesday’s test and state media’s description of the event as a “final test fire” could indicate that North Korea is pushing for the release of the weapon relatively quickly. But it is more likely that the Nordics will continue to test to increase the system’s range, stability and accuracy, said Kim Dong-yub, a professor at the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul.

The United States condemns the launch

US State Department spokesman Ned Price said Washington condemned the recent Nordic launch, which violates several UN Security Council resolutions and poses a threat to neighbors and the wider international community. The U.S. Indo-Pacific Command said the launch highlighted the “destabilizing effect of (North Korea’s) illegal weapons program,” but that it did not pose an immediate threat to U.S. territory or its allies.

“We continue to urge the DPRK to refrain from further provocations and, what is important, to engage in an ongoing and substantive dialogue,” Price said, using an abbreviation of North Korea’s formal name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

“We continue to urge the DPRK to refrain from further provocations and, what is important, to engage in an ongoing and substantial dialogue.”

– Ned Price, spokesman for the US State Department

US State Department spokesman Ned Price is holding a news briefing in Washington on August 16, 2021.

US State Department spokesman Ned Price is holding a news briefing in Washington on August 16, 2021.
(Getty Images)

Minutes after Tuesday’s launch, airports in the western United States briefly stopped flights without explanation. A spokeswoman for San Diego International Airport referred questions to the Federal Aviation Administration.

The FAA acknowledged the “ground stop” in a tweet without giving a reason why it issued the order.

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“Full operations were resumed in less than 15 minutes,” the FAA said. “The FAA takes regular precautions. We review the process around this ground stop, as we do after all such events.”

South Korea’s joint chief of staff had said the North Korean missile flew 700 kilometers (434 miles) at a maximum speed of around Mach 10 before landing in waters off the north east coast.

South Korea’s Defense Ministry had downplayed North Korea’s earlier test on January 5, insisting that North Korea exaggerate its capabilities after testing a conventional ballistic missile and expressing doubts that North Korea had acquired the technologies needed for hypersonic weapons. After Tuesday’s launch, the Joint Chief of Staff said in a statement that North demonstrated more advanced capabilities compared to its previous test, but did not elaborate further.

Kim Jong Un entered the new year and renewed its promise to strengthen its military forces, even as the nation struggles with pandemic-related difficulties that have further strained its economy, crippled by US-led sanctions over its nuclear program. The economic setbacks have left Kim with little reference to his diplomacy with former US President Donald Trump, which derailed after their second meeting in 2019, when the Americans rejected North Korea’s demands for greater sanctions in exchange for a partial surrender of its nuclear capabilities.

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The Biden administration, whose policies have reflected a broader shift in US focus from counter-terrorism and so-called rogue states such as North Korea and Iran to confronting an almost equal opponent in China, has said it is willing to resume talks with North Korea at any time without prerequisites.

But North Korea has so far rejected the idea of ​​open negotiations, saying the United States should first withdraw its “hostile policy”, a term that Pyongyang mainly uses to describe sanctions and joint military exercises between the United States and South Korea.

AP writers Jon Gambrell in Dubai, the United Arab Emirates and Matthew Lee in Washington contributed to this story.

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