North Korea Claims Hypersonic Missile Test Launch

It would be the North's first ballistic test of 2024
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jan 15, 2024 7:12 AM CST
North Korea Kicks Off 2024 With Missile Test
This photo provided by the North Korean government shows what it says was a flight test of a new solid-fuel intermediate-range missile in North Korea on Sunday. Independent journalists weren't given access to cover the event depicted in this image distributed by the North Korean government. The content...   (Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service, via AP)

North Korea on Monday said it flight-tested a new solid-fuel intermediate-range missile tipped with a hypersonic warhead as it pursues more powerful, harder-to-detect weapons designed to strike remote US targets in the region. The report by North Korea's state media came a day after the South Korean and Japanese militaries detected the launch from a site near the North Korean capital of Pyongyang, in what was the North's first ballistic test of 2024. The launch came two months after North Korea said it successfully tested engines for a new solid-fuel intermediate-range ballistic missile, which reflected a push to advance its lineup of weapons targeting US military bases in Guam and Japan, per the AP.

The North's official Korean Central News Agency said Sunday's launch was aimed at verifying the reliability of the missile's solid-fuel engines and the maneuverable flight capabilities of the hypersonic warhead, which the report implied was an upgraded version of previous vehicles designed to perform intermediate-range strikes. The report described the test as a success but didn't provide details. It also didn't mention whether North Korean leader Kim Jong Un attended the test, which it said was part of the country's regular weapons development activities and didn't affect the security of neighbors. South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff said the missile flew about 620 miles before landing in the waters between the Korean Peninsula and Japan.

The North's existing intermediate-range ballistic missiles, or IRBMs, including the Hwasong-12 that may be able to reach the US military hub of Guam in the Pacific, are powered by liquid-fuel engines, which are fueled up before launch and can't stay fueled for long. Missiles with built-in solid propellants can be made ready to launch faster and are easier to move and conceal, theoretically making it harder for adversaries to detect and preempt the launch. More flight tests are likely to come soon and raise the alarm of neighbors. North Korea has flown Hwasong-12 IRBMs over Japan three different times since 2017. Lee Sung Joon, spokesperson for South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the military was analyzing the North's latest test but declined to elaborate. More here.

(More North Korea stories.)

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