Seoul, South Korea ( Associated Press) – North Korea says leader Kim Jong Un oversaw a successful flight test of a hypersonic missile he claimed would lead to a significant increase in the country’s nuclear “war deterrence”.
North Korean state media reported on Wednesday that the armies of the United States, South Korea and Japan said they had detected North Korea firing a suspected ballistic missile into its eastern seas.
Tuesday’s launch involved a hypersonic glide vehicle, which performed a “glide jump flight” and “corkscrew maneuver” before hitting a sea target 1,000 kilometers (621 mi) away after its release from the rocket booster, the Korean Central News Agency said. performed. Images released by the agency showed a missile with a pointed cone-shaped payload soaring into the sky, leaving a trail of orange flames and Kim accompanied by top officials including his sister Kim Yo Jong in a small Looking from the cabin.
The launch was North Korea’s second test of its alleged hypersonic missile in a week, a type of weapon it first tested in September, as Kim Jong Un denounced international sanctions, pandemic-related efforts to expand its nuclear weapons capabilities. A defiant push has continued. Difficulties and standoff diplomacy with the United States.
The North has ramped up its testing activity since last fall as experts tried to apply more pressure on rivals Washington and Seoul to accept it as a nuclear power in hopes of getting relief from economic sanctions.
North Korean state media reported Kim’s presence in the missile test for the first time since March 2020, according to South Korea’s unification ministry that oversees inter-Korean affairs.
The KCNA said Kim praised the achievements made by his military scientists and officials involved in developing the hypersonic missile system, which he called the most important part of a new five-year plan announced in early 2021 to build up the north’s military power. Told.
North described the new missile as part of its “strategic” warhead, meaning a system is being developed to deliver a nuclear warhead.
“The superior maneuverability of the hypersonic glide vehicle was more clearly verified through final test-fire,” KCNA said. It said Kim stressed the need for the country to “expand and further modernize the country’s strategic military muscle in both quality and quantity” and urged military scientists to continue their success in “significantly enhancing the country’s combat deterrence”. encouraged to.
Hypersonic weapons, which fly at speeds greater than Mach 5 or more than five times the speed of sound, can pose a significant challenge to missile defense systems because of their speed and maneuverability. Such weapons were on the wish-list of sophisticated military assets that Kim unveiled early last year with multi-warhead missiles, spy satellites, solid-fuel long-range missiles and submarine-launched nuclear missiles.
Experts say North Korea needs more successful and long-range tests that will take years to get a reliable hypersonic system.
Kim’s appearance at Tuesday’s test and state media describing the incident as “the final test-fire” may indicate that North Korea is pushing to deploy the weapon relatively soon. But it is more likely that the North will continue testing to increase the range, stability and accuracy of the system, said Professor Kim Dong-yub of the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul.
US State Department spokesman Ned Price said Washington condemns the North’s latest launch, which violates several UN Security Council resolutions and poses a threat to neighbors and the wider international community. The US Indo-Pacific Command said the launch highlighted “the destabilizing effects of (North Korea’s) illegal weapons program” but did not pose an immediate threat to the US territory or its allies.
Price, using an abbreviation for North Korea’s formal name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, said, “We continue to call on the DPRK to refrain from further provocations and, importantly, to engage in sustained and genuine dialogue.” Huh.”
Minutes after Tuesday’s launch, airports across the western United States briefly halted flights without explanation. A spokesperson for San Diego International Airport sent questions to the Federal Aviation Administration.
The FAA acknowledged the “ground stop” in a tweet, without giving any reason why it issued the order.
“Full operations resumed in less than 15 minutes,” the FAA said. “The FAA takes regular precautionary measures. We are reviewing the process around this ground stop as we do after all such events.”
South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said the North Korean missile flew 700 kilometers (434 mi) at a maximum speed of about Mach 10 before landing in waters off the north’s east coast.
South Korea’s Defense Ministry on 5 January rejected North Korea’s earlier test, insisting that the North had exaggerated its capabilities after testing a conventional ballistic missile and suspected expressed that the North had acquired the technologies needed for hypersonic weapons. After Tuesday’s launch, the Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement that the North demonstrated a more advanced capability than its previous test, but did not elaborate further.
Kim Jong Un enters the new year renewing his pledge to strengthen his military forces, even as the nation grapples with difficulties related to the pandemic, which has further strained its economy , has been crippled by US-led sanctions on its nuclear program. The economic shock has left Kim with little to show of his diplomacy with former US President Donald Trump, which derailed after their second meeting in 2019 when the Americans faced major sanctions in exchange for a partial surrender of their nuclear capabilities. North Korea’s demand for relief is rejected.
The Biden administration, whose policies have reflected a sweeping shift from countering terrorism in the US and so-called rogue states such as North Korea and Iran to a near-fellow adversary in China, has said that it will not fight North Korea at any time. Ready to resume talks with. without preconditions.
But North Korea has so far rejected the idea of open-ended talks, saying the US should first withdraw its “hostile policy”, a term Pyongyang has said primarily of sanctions and joint US-South Korea military exercises. uses to describe.
Associated Press writers John Gambrell in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, and Matthew Lee in Washington contributed to this story.