North Korean state media announced Wednesday that the country has completed its second reported hypersonic weapons test.
Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said: “The test launches in the hypersonic missile sector have strategic significance in that they hasten a task for modernizing strategic armed force of the state.”
According to the media outlet, the test reconfirmed the missile’s flight control, stability in active-flight stage, assessed the performance of a new lateral movement technique on the detached warhead, and checked the fuel system in winter weather conditions. KCNA also said the detached gliding warhead made a 120km (75 miles) lateral movement and hit a target 700km (430 miles) away.
Both South Korea and the US detected the missile and have disputed the range reported by North Korea. South Korea won’t even call it a hypersonic missile.
“South Korea and the US detected the ballistic missile with our intelligence assets and are capable of responding to it,” said Chiefs of Staff spokesperson Colonel Kim Jun-rak in a regular press briefing, according to Korean news outlet Yonhap.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who had been chatting with Japan’s Foreign Minister about a variety of issues, took a moment to “discuss cooperation to achieve the complete denuclearization and lasting peace on the Korean Peninsula.” Blinken condemned the missile that landed 310 miles (499km) outside Japan’s exclusive economic zone in their call.
Hypersonic missiles are not only manoeuvrable and less detectable via radar than ballistic missiles, but they are also faster at around Mach 5 and can surprise a target.
Both launches, the first of which took place about 3 months ago, are believed to have flown at Mach 3.
North Korea is banned from launching ballistic missiles under UN Security Council resolutions.
In a separate statement, South Korea’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs pointed out that the North is also banned from making any launch using ballistic missile technology.
Last year China launched what is believed to be a more sophisticated hypersonic missile than the one shot off yesterday in Korea. ®