North Korea confirms test-fire of hypersonic ballistic missile

North Korea has said it successfully test-fired a new ballistic missile tipped with a hypersonic manoeuvrable warhead, the latest breakthrough in its pursuit of advanced weaponry to threaten South Korean and United States targets.

The launch, Pyongyang's first known weapons test this year and its first-ever test of a solid-fuel hypersonic intermediate-range ballistic missile (IRBM) was first detected by Seoul's military on Sunday afternoon.

A short report in the official Korean Central News Agency said that the solid-fuel IRMB was "loaded with a hypersonic manoeuvrable controlled warhead ".

The test was meant to verify "the gliding and manoeuvring characteristics" of the warhead and the "reliability of newly developed multi-stage high-thrust solid-fuel engines", KCNA said.

KCNA said that Sunday's launch "never affected the security of any neighbouring country and had nothing to do with the regional situation".

But it came just days after Pyongyang staged live-fire exercises near the country's tense maritime border with South Korea, which prompted counter-exercises and evacuation orders for some South Korean border islands.

It also comes after Kim last week branded Seoul his "principal enemy" and warned he would not hesitate to annihilate South Korea, as he toured major weapons factories.

'Clear provocation'

South Korea's defence ministry condemned the launch, saying it would carry out an "overwhelming response" if North Korea conducted "a direct provocation" against the South.

"This behaviour by North Korea is a clear provocation that violates UN Security Council resolutions banning the use of ballistic missile technology, and we issue a stern warning and strongly urge it to stop immediately," it added in a statement.

Solid-fuel missiles are easier to hide and quicker to fire, and hypersonic missiles typically allow the user to manoeuvre them in flight to better hit targets. Both technologies have long been on Kim's list of objectives.

"North Korea appears to be pursuing the development of hypersonic missiles and IRBMs using solid-fuel rocket boosters at the same time," said Chang Young-keun, a missile expert at the Korea Research Institute for National Strategy.

"Mid- to long-range hypersonic missiles will be particularly useful in striking Guam while evading the US missile defence system," he added.

North Korea's last missile test was of a Hwasong-18 solid-fuel intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) on December 18.

KCNA released a single photograph of the missile launch with its Monday report, which did not mention Kim being present to oversee the test.

US-based analyst Ankit Panda told specialist site NK News that the image suggested the missile featured a so-called manoeuvrable re-entry vehicle (MaRV).


Source: TRT