SEOUL (AP) – North Korea claimed yesterday to have conducted the second successful test flight of a hypersonic missile, days after leader Kim Jong-Un vowed to bolster his military forces despite pandemic-related difficulties.
Wednesday’s launch, the North’s first known weapons test in about two months, indicates the country will press ahead with plans to modernise its nuclear and missile arsenals rather than return to disarmament talks anytime soon.
The official Korean Central News Agency said the Central Committee of the ruling Workers’ Party expressed “great satisfaction” at the results of the missile test, which was observed by leading weapons officials. Hypersonic weapons, which fly at speeds in excess of Mach 5, or five times the speed of sound, could pose crucial challenges to missile defence systems because of their speed and manoeuvrability.
It’s unclear whether and how soon.
North Korea could manufacture such a high-tech missile, but it was among a wish-list of sophisticated military assets that Kim disclosed early last year, along with a multi-warhead missile, spy satellites, solid-fueled long-range missiles and underwater-launched nuclear missiles.
The North’s latest launch was first detected by its neighbours.
The United States (US) military called it a ballistic missile launch that “highlights the destabilising impact of (North Korea’s) illicit weapons program”, while South Korea and Japan expressed concerns or regrets over the launch.
China, for its part, called for dialogue and said that “all parties concerned should keep in mind the big picture (and) be cautious with their words and actions”.