North Korean leader Kim Jong Un watched the successful test-firing of a hypersonic missile on Tuesday, state-run media reported, a day after Japan and South Korea said Pyongyang launched a suspected ballistic missile in defiance of U.N. Security Council resolutions.
The missile hit a target in waters 1,000 kilometers away, the official Korean Central News Agency said Wednesday, but did not specify how fast the projectile had traveled.
It was North Korea’s second missile launch in less than a week after Kim pledged to strengthen the nation’s defenses at a meeting of the ruling Workers’ Party of Korea held late last year.
The latest test-firing was “aimed at the final verification of overall technical specifications of the developed hypersonic weapon system,” KCNA said, adding Kim “appreciated the practical achievements” made by those involved in research related to the missile.4
Photo shows a hypersonic missile being test-fired by North Korea on Jan. 5, 2022. (KCNA/Kyodo)
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“The hypersonic glide vehicle made glide jump flight from 600 km area before making a 240 km corkscrew maneuvering from the initial launch azimuth to the target azimuth,” the news agency said.
A hypersonic missile is designed to travel at more than five times the speed of sound. Given that it is difficult for existing missile defense systems to intercept such projectiles, North Korea’s acquisition of hypersonic missile capabilities would raise regional security concerns.
At the first congress of the ruling party in five years in January 2021, North Korea promised to introduce a “hypersonic gliding flight warhead.” Tokyo and Seoul have been wary of the possibility of Pyongyang mounting a nuclear warhead on a hypersonic missile.
North Korea test-fired a new type of submarine-launched ballistic missile in October 2021.
Pyongyang also test-fired two short-range ballistic missiles from a rail-based system in mid-September last year and launched what its state-run media said was a newly developed hypersonic missile later the same month.