North Korea says it has fired new ‘hypersonic missile’

·3-min read
Image provided by the North Korean government shows the launch of a new hypersonic missile (KCNA/KNS)
Image provided by the North Korean government shows the launch of a new hypersonic missile (KCNA/KNS)

North Korea claimed it has successfully tested a hypersonic gliding missile, the latest in a series of weapon tests.

The state-run Korean Central News Agency said on Wednesday that the “Hwasong-8” was a “strategic weapon” that would help the hermit nation in its goal of increasing its defence capabilities by a “thousandfold”.

Pyongyang fired the missile towards the sea off its east coast on Tuesday but North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un was not present to inspect the launch, according to reports.

The “Hwasong-8” achieved its technical targets, “including the guiding manoeuvrability and the gliding flight characteristics of the detached hypersonic gliding warhead”, state media reports said.

Hypersonic weapons are considered to be the next generation in warfare, their speed making them particularly hard to intercept. Unlike ballistic missiles that fly into space, the hypersonic version flies at a lower altitude and can achieve speeds of 3,850mph.

This was Pyongyang’s third launch this month, after it tested a “strategic” cruise missile and two railway-borne ballistic missiles.

The tests were the first such launches in six months and are a further indication of the pariah state’s ambition to strengthen its arsenal in line with the US, China and Russia.

Bonnie Jenkins, US under-secretary for arms control and international security, told Reuters that Washington was seeking more information on the latest tests.

“The US still is promoting a diplomatic solution. We still want to have an open door to diplomacy with North Korea. So we are hoping that in addition to the tests, that they will also say ‘let’s have some conversations again’,” she said

“It is unlikely that North Korea has reliably developed all the technologies its propaganda claims,” said Leif-Eric Easley, a professor at Ewha University in Seoul.

“However, if Pyongyang manages to fit a nuclear warhead on even a rudimentary hypersonic, it would be a dangerous weapon because it wouldn’t have to be extremely accurate to threaten the nearby metropolis of Seoul,” he added.

Meanwhile, Kim Song, North Korea's envoy to the UN, spoke at the UN General Assembly (UNGA) in New York on Tuesday and urged the US and South Korea to give up their “hostile policies” towards Pyongyang and said no one could deny his country’s right to self-defence and to test weapons.

Kim Yo-jong, the powerful sister of the North Korean leader, however, softened her stance last week when she said Pyongyang was willing to consider an inter-Korean summit based on mutual respect and impartiality. Seoul welcomed the prospect, urging the need to restore a hotline link between the two countries.

Pyongyang’s latest outreach had come as a response to South Korean president Moon Jae-in’s renewed calls for a declaration to end the Korean War to promote peace in the region.

During the UNGA meeting, the South Korean president called for the signing of the end-of-the-war declaration between the two Koreas, the US and China.

North Korea’s envoy to the UN, commenting on Mr Moon’s speech, however, said a new war did not break out because of what he called “US’s mercy”, but instead because his country served as a “reliable deterrent”.

“The possible outbreak of a new war on the Korean peninsula is contained not because of the US’s mercy on the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), it is because our state is growing a reliable deterrent that can control the hostile forces in an attempted military invasion,” Mr Kim said.

The Kim regime has increasingly complained about what it calls international hypocrisy, according to Mr Easley.

“Pyongyang maintains its missile tests are not provocations but steps for strengthening its ‘war deterrent’. It refuses to recognise the legitimacy of UN Security Council resolutions, alleges the United States often makes more provocative military moves and accuses Seoul of breaking inter-Korean agreements,” he said.

Talks between Washington and Pyongyang on North Korea’s denuclearisation have remained dormant after a 2019 summit between former US president Donald Trump and Mr Kim.

The US has been pushing North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons.

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