SEOUL, WORLD LINES – North Korea fired a hypersonic missile this week that successfully hit its target. This is the second test run as the country pursues new military capabilities amid stalled denuclearization talks.
The launch on Wednesday, January 5, 2022, was the first by North Korea since October, and was detected by several militaries in the region, drawing criticism from governments in the United States, South Korea and Japan.
North Korea first tested a hypersonic missile in September, joining a race led by the world’s top military powers to develop advanced weapons systems.
Unlike ballistic missiles which fly into space before returning on a steep trajectory, hypersonic weapons fly towards targets at lower altitudes and can reach more than five times the speed of sound – or about 6,200 km per hour (3,850 mph).
“Successful successes in test launches in the hypersonic missile sector are of strategic significance, as they accelerate the task of modernizing the country’s strategic armed forces,” the KCNA report said.
In Wednesday’s test, the “hypersonic glide warhead” detached from its rocket booster, and maneuvered 120 km (75 miles) laterally before “precisely hitting” the 700 km (430 mi) target.
The tests also confirmed components such as flight control and its ability to operate in winter.
The missile demonstrated its ability to combine “multi-step glide jump flight and powerful lateral maneuvers,” KCNA added. While it has not tested a nuclear bomb or long-range intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) since 2017, in recent years North Korea has developed and launched a variety of more maneuverable missiles and warheads. The development is likely aimed at being able to overcome missile defenses such as those used by South Korea and the United States, analysts said.
“My impression is that North Korea has identified hypersonic launchers as a potentially useful qualitative means of tackling missile defenses,” said Ankit Panda, a senior fellow at the US-based Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
New Missiles Hypersonic weapons are considered as next-generation weapons, which aim to steal enemy reaction time and traditional defeat mechanisms.
Photographs of the missile used in Wednesday’s test January 5, 2022 show what analysts say is a liquid-fueled ballistic missile, with a cone-shaped Maneuverable Reentry Vehicle (MaRV) gliding from a wheeled launch vehicle in a cloud of fire and smoke.
It is a different version of the weapon tested last year, and was first unveiled at a defense exhibition in Pyongyang in October, Panda said.
“They probably created at least two separate development programs,” he added. “One of them is the Hwasong-8, which was tested in September. This missile, which has some similarities to the Hwasong-8, is a different version.”
The US State Department said this week’s test violated several UN Security Council resolutions and poses a threat to North Korea’s neighbors and the international community.
North Korea’s last missile launch was in October, when it said it fired a new short-range missile from a submarine. The ballistic missile submarine has returned to its safe haven at the Sinpho South Shipyard, after a brief hull maintenance period following the test, 38 North, a program that monitors North Korea, reported Thursday January 6, 2022.
Talks aimed at persuading North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile arsenal have stalled since a series of summits between then-leader Kim Jong Un and the United States.
President Donald Trump strikes without a deal. The administration of US President Joe Biden has said it is open to talks with North Korea. But Pyongyang responded that the US had offered empty rhetoric without more substantive changes to “hostile policies” such as military exercises and sanctions.
North Korea’s latest test of a hypersonic missile comes just hours before South Korean President Moon Jae-in attends the groundbreaking ceremony for the railway line, which he hopes will eventually connect the divided Korean peninsula.
Recent actions by Kim Jong Un’s regime cast doubt on Moon Jae-in’s hopes for an eleven-hour diplomatic breakthrough with North Korea before the five-year term expires in May.