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North Korea claims success after second hypersonic missile test this week

SEOUL, South Korea – North Korea has said that leader Kim Jong Un has successfully supervised a flight test of a hypersonic missile that it says will dramatically increase the country’s nuclear “war deterrence”.

The report released by North Korean state media on Wednesday came a day after the military from the United States, South Korea and Japan said they detected that North Korea fired a suspected ballistic missile at its eastern sea.

Korea’s Central News Agency said Tuesday’s launch involved a hypersonic glide vehicle, which, after exiting the rocket thruster, demonstrated “glide-jump flight” and “corkscrew maneuvers” before hit a marine target 1,000 kilometers (621 miles) away. Photos released by the agency showed a mounted missile with a sharp cone-shaped payload soaring into the sky while leaving a trail of orange flames and Kim observing from a small cabin with senior officials including her sister Kim Yo Jong.

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The launch was North Korea’s second test of its so-called hypersonic missile in a week, a type of weaponry it first tested in September, as Kim Jong Un continues efforts to expand its capabilities to nuclear weapons in the face of international sanctions, pandemic difficulties and deadlocked diplomacy with the United States.

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

The North has stepped up testing activities since last fall in what experts see as an attempt to put more pressure on rivals Washington and Seoul to accept it as a nuclear power in the hope of obtain economic sanctions relief.

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

Five-year plan

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

The North has described the new missile as part of its “strategic” weaponry, implying that the system is being developed to deliver nuclear weapons.

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

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

“The superior handling of the hypersonic glide vehicle was most vividly verified during the final firing test,” KCNA said. He said Kim stressed the need to accelerate the expansion of the country’s “strategic military muscle both in quality and quantity and to further modernize the military” and encouraged military scientists to continue their success in ” dramatically increasing the country’s war deterrence “.

Hypersonic weapons, which fly at speeds above Mach 5, or five times the speed of sound, could pose a critical challenge to missile defense systems due to their speed and maneuverability. Such weapons were on a wishlist of sophisticated military assets that Kim unveiled early last year, as well as multi-warhead missiles, spy satellites, long-range solid-fuel missiles, and nuclear missiles. launched by submarine.

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Experts say North Korea needs more successful, longer-range tests that would take years to acquire a credible hypersonic system.

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

United States condemns launch

US State Department spokesman Ned Price said Washington condemns the latest North launch, which violates several UN Security Council resolutions and poses a threat to neighbors and the international community within the meaning large. U.S. Indo-Pacific Command said launch highlighted “the destabilizing impact of (North Korea’s) illicit weapons program” but did not pose an immediate threat to U.S. territory or its allies. .

“We continue to call on the DPRK to refrain from further provocations and, above all, to engage in sustained and substantial dialogue,” Price said, using an abbreviation of the official name of North Korea, People’s Republic. Democratic Republic of Korea.

“We continue to call on the DPRK to refrain from further provocations and, above all, to engage in a sustained and substantial dialogue.

– Ned Price, spokesperson for the US State Department

US State Department spokesman Ned Price holds a press conference in Washington on August 16, 2021.

US State Department spokesman Ned Price holds a press conference in Washington on August 16, 2021.
(Getty Images)

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

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

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“Full operations resumed in less than 15 minutes,” the FAA said. “The FAA regularly takes precautionary measures. We are reviewing the process around this ground stoppage as we are doing after all of these events.”

South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said the North Korean missile traveled 700 kilometers (434 miles) at a top speed of around Mach 10 before landing in the waters off the coast. is North.

The South Korean Defense Ministry had played down North Korea’s previous test on January 5, insisting that the North had exaggerated its capabilities after testing a conventional ballistic missile and expressing doubts that the North had acquired the technologies necessary for hypersonic weapons. After Tuesday’s launch, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement that the North had demonstrated a more advanced capability compared to its previous test, but did not give further details.

Kim Jong Un entered the new year by renewing his vow to strengthen its military forces, even as the country grapples with pandemic-related challenges that have further strained its economy, crippled by sanctions led by the United States against its nuclear program. Economic setbacks have left Kim little to show for his diplomacy with former US President Donald Trump, which derailed after their second meeting in 2019 when the Americans rejected North Korea’s request for major relief sanctions in exchange for a partial cession of its nuclear capacities.

The Biden administration, whose policies reflected a broader shift in US focus from fighting terrorism and so-called rogue states like North Korea and Iran to confronting an opponent close to China, said it was ready to resume talks with North Korea at any time. without preconditions.

But North Korea has so far rejected the idea of ​​open-ended talks, saying the United States must first withdraw its “hostile policy,” a term Pyongyang uses primarily to describe sanctions and drills. joint US-Korean military.

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

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