North Korea claims to have successfully tested new hypersonic missile as it continues to expand military capabilities
SEOUL, South Korea (AP) – North Korea said on Wednesday it had successfully tested a new hypersonic missile it said was being developed as nuclear capable as it continues to expand its military capabilities and pressure Washington and Seoul for long-standing nuclear weapons negotiations. .
The missile test on Tuesday morning was North Korea’s third round of launches this month and came shortly before the North Korean envoy to the UN accuses the United States of hostility and demands the Biden administration to put a definitive end to joint military exercises with South Korea and the deployment of strategic assets in the region.
A photo published in North Korean state media showed a mounted missile with a finned cone-shaped payload hovering in the air amid bright orange flames. The official Korean Central News Agency said the missile in its first flight test met key technical requirements, including launch stability and handling and flight characteristics of the “detached hypersonic planing warhead.”
The North’s announcement came a day after the South Korean and Japanese military said they detected North Korea firing a missile into its eastern sea. The US Indo-Pacific Command said the launch highlighted “the destabilizing impact of (North Korea’s) illicit weapons program.”
North Korea last week made offers to improve relations with the South if certain conditions are met, apparently reverting to its tendency to mix weapons displays with peace overtures to wrest foreign concessions.
Negotiations over its nuclear program have been deadlocked since February 2019. North Korea has demanded the lifting of US-led sanctions while insisting it has the right to a nuclear weapons program . U.S. officials have made it clear that the sanctions will remain in place until the North takes concrete steps towards denuclearization.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has pledged in recent political speeches to strengthen his nuclear deterrence in the face of US pressure. His government has so far rejected the Biden administration’s offer to resume talks without preconditions, saying Washington must first abandon its “hostile policy,” a term North Korea uses primarily to refer to sanctions and joint US-South Korean military exercises that the North sees as a repeat of the invasion.
In a separate report, KCNA said the northern parliament opened on Tuesday and discussed national issues such as economic policies and youth education and that the meetings will continue. Some pundits believe the North could use the session to resolve the standoff over nuclear diplomacy, but the state media report made no mention of Washington and Seoul.
At a ruling party meeting in January, Kim named hypersonic glide vehicles, which are launched from a rocket before hovering over a target, among a wishlist of sophisticated military assets. KCNA described the new missile as a significant addition to the country’s “strategic” weaponry, implying that the system is being developed to deliver nuclear weapons.
The report also says the test confirmed the stability of the missile’s fuel capsule, indicating technology to pre-add a liquid propellant and keep it ready for launch for years. And a North Korean official said the North plans to expand the system to all of its liquid-fueled missiles.
Liquid-fueled missiles are more vulnerable than solid-fueled missiles because they must be powered separately and transported to launch sites using trucks that can be seen by enemy satellites or other military means.
Kim Dong-yub, a professor at the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul, said North Korea is trying to improve the mobility of these weapons.
Last week, Kim Jong Un’s influential sister contacted Seoul twice, saying her country was open to resuming talks and reconciliation measures if the conditions were right.
Analysts say North Korea is using the South’s desire for an inter-Korean engagement to pressure Seoul to obtain concessions from Washington on Kim’s behalf as it renews its attempt to exploit its nuclear weapons for essential economic and security advantages.
North Korea’s arms exhibitions could also aim to bolster national unity as Kim Jong Un faces his most difficult time with nearly a decade of rule, with pandemic border closures unleashing yet another shock on an economy battered by sanctions and decades of mismanagement.
Experts say the North will likely continue testing activities over the next few months as it ramps up its lobbying campaign, at least until China begins to push for calm ahead of the Beijing Olympics in early next year.