Seoul: North Korea announced on Monday that it had successfully tested a new solid-fuel hypersonic missile with an intermediate range, capable of hitting remote US targets in the region. The test, which was conducted on Sunday from a location near Pyongyang, the North Korean capital, was the first major weapons test by the isolated regime this year.
According to the state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), the test was intended to verify the reliability of the new multi-stage, high-thrust solid-fuel engines and the maneuverability of the hypersonic warhead, which can fly at more than five times the speed of sound and evade detection by missile defense systems. KCNA claimed that the missile “precisely hit” a target 700 km (434 miles) away and that the test did not pose any threat to neighboring countries or the regional situation.
KCNA did not mention whether North Korean leader Kim Jong Un supervised the test, which came a day after South Korea and Japan detected the launch and condemned it as a violation of UN Security Council resolutions. The test also coincided with a visit by North Korean Foreign Minister Choe Son Hui to Russia, a key ally of Pyongyang.
The new missile, which was first unveiled at a defense exhibition in Pyongyang in October 2021, is the latest addition to North Korea’s growing arsenal of solid-fuel missiles, which are easier to transport and launch than liquid-fuel ones. In September 2021, North Korea tested another solid-fuel hypersonic missile, the Hwasong-8, for the first time. In December 2021, it tested a solid-fuel intercontinental ballistic missile, the Hwasong-16, which can reach the US mainland.
North Korea has been developing its nuclear and missile programs despite international sanctions and diplomatic pressure, as it sees them as a deterrent against a possible US invasion. In his New Year’s speech, Kim Jong Un vowed to strengthen the country’s defense capabilities and warned of a “grave and unpredictable” military situation on the Korean Peninsula. North Korea has also recently declared South Korea as a separate, enemy state, breaking with decades of policy and raising the risk of a potential conflict.