North Korea claims successful first test of multi-warhead missile

North Korea claimed to have successfully tested a new multiple warhead missile system on Wednesday, a boast that South Korea dismissed as a “deception”.

According to the official Korean Central News Agency, Pyongyang “successfully conducted the separation and guidance control test of individual mobile warheads” and “correctly guided” them to three targets.

The purpose of the test was “to secure the capability to destroy individual targets with multiple warheads” and develop multiple independently targetable reentry vehicle technology, or MIRV, the agency reported.

The South Korean military rejected the claim as a “deception”.

“Today North Korea disclosed something but we believe it’s simply a means of deception and exaggeration,” Lee Sung-joon, a spokesperson for the South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff, said.

A joint analysis with the US indicated the missile exploded in its initial stage of flight, the military claimed. It also suggested that pictures of the supposed test released by North Korea were fabricated or recycled from a previous launch.

“I had been anticipating a MIRV test for some time now as this was one of the last remaining items on Kim Jong-un’s modernisation wishlist from the Eighth Party Congress in January 2021,” Ankit Panda, a senior analyst at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, told Al Jazeera.

The North Korean leader last month reportedly supervised firing drills involving nuclear-capable “super-large” multiple rocket launchers to show his country’s ability to carry out preemptive attacks on the South.

Photo released by the Korean Central News Agency shows an MIRV test conducted on 26 June 2024 (EPA)
Photo released by the Korean Central News Agency shows an MIRV test conducted on 26 June 2024 (EPA)

Meanwhile, in a tit-for-tat campaign, North Korea dropped balloons filled with trash on the South for the third straight day.

The North has sent thousands of balloons carrying manure, plastic and paper waste towards its neighbour in retaliation for South Korean activists sending propaganda leaflets the other way.

The South’s military said nearly 70 balloons had landed by Thursday morning, mostly in northern Gyeonggi province and Seoul, but they carried no hazardous contents. “The payload is about 10kg so there is a risk if the balloons descend rapidly,” it said.

Seoul’s response to the latest drop “will be flexible depending on the strategic and operational situation”, the military said according to AFP. “This depends on North Korea’s actions.”

South Korea previously threatened to restart anti-Pyongyang propaganda broadcasts near the border, escalating tensions after the North resumed launching balloons filled with trash.

Additional reporting by agencies