The development of the weapons system increases North Korea’s defense capabilities, the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said on Wednesday, calling the missile a “strategic weapon.”
The official Rodong Sinmun newspaper published a photo of the weapon – with a set of guide vanes at the base of its nose cone – rising into the morning sky.
North Korea is steadily expanding its military arsenal in a deadlock over talks to dismantle its nuclear and ballistic missile arsenals in return for relief from sanctions that have crippled its economy.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un did not attend the launch, which was observed by senior official Pak Jong Chon, KCNA said.
“During the first test launch, national defense scientists confirmed the navigation control and stability of the missile,” he said.
He said the missile, called the Hwasong-8, had achieved its technical objectives “including the guiding maneuverability and glide characteristics of the detached hypersonic planing warhead.”
The Hwasong series missiles use liquid propellant engines, according to Ankit Panda, senior researcher at the U.S.-based Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
“This is the first test of a liquid rocket missile in North Korea since November 2017,” he said in a Twitter post.
It was North Korea’s third test this month, with South Korea also developing increasingly sophisticated weapons. On September 15, the two countries tested ballistic missiles just hours apart. Seoul held a launch ceremony for its third submarine capable of carrying ballistic missiles launched by submarines on Tuesday.
“Due to their varied speed and trajectories, hypersonic missiles are difficult to detect, track and combat,” said Leif-Eric Easley, associate professor of international studies at Ewha Womans University in Seoul, in an email.
“Advances in supply are intended to allow Pyongyang to fire the missiles quickly, making them more difficult for other countries to target and destroy pre-launch. North Korea is unlikely to have reliably developed all of the technologies claimed by its propaganda. However, if Pyongyang manages to install a nuclear warhead on even a rudimentary hypersonic, it would be a dangerous weapon as it wouldn’t need to be extremely precise to threaten neighboring metropolis Seoul.
South Korea tried to bring the North back to the engagement; however, denuclearization talks have stalled since 2019 after a failed summit between Kim and former US President Donald Trump.
North Korea said last week that it was ready to consider another summit with South Korea if mutual respect between neighbors can be ensured, following South Korean President Moon Jae’s call- in to a declaration formally ending the Korean War of 1950-1953.
The South Korean military announced the launch shortly after it happened on Tuesday, but did not disclose the missile’s maximum altitude and flight distance, information it generally makes available in the hour that follows.
South Korean media quoted unidentified sources as saying the projectile had “different flight characteristics” from previous launches and President Moon Jae-in called for “a full analysis” of the launch. Japan said it was a ballistic missile.
North Korea, which invaded South Korea in 1950, is subject to multiple international sanctions for its banned nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs. It has already tested a long-range cruise missile and a train-launched ballistic missile this month.
The United States has repeatedly stated that it is ready to meet with North Korean officials anywhere, anytime, without preconditions, as part of its efforts to resume denuclearization negotiations. He condemned Tuesday’s launch as a violation of sanctions and a threat to the international community.
Lim Eul-chul, a professor at the Institute for Far Eastern Studies at Kyungnam University, said North Korea was seeking to use its weapons development “as a way to make room for diplomatic maneuvers and improve the military position ”.
Lim said he expects more launches in the future.
“In a way, the recent behavior of the North is very predictable,” he told AFP news agency.
“They had reported military actions and are now executing them step by step. ”