North Korea claims progress in development of hypersonic missile

The country is stepping up its development of more technologically-advanced weaponry capable of striking further afield.

North Korea has successfully tested a solid-fuel engine for its new-type intermediate-range hypersonic missile.

State media reported the development on Wednesday, suggesting progress in Pyongyang’s efforts to develop a more powerful, agile missile that could be capable of hitting further away targets in the region including Guam, a territory of the United States.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un oversaw the test, which took place on Tuesday at the Sohae Satellite Launching Ground in the country’s northwest, the official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said.

KCNA cited Kim as saying that the strategic value of the intermediate-range missile was as important as intercontinental ballistic missiles targeting the US mainland and that “enemies know better about it”. It added that a timetable for completing the development of the new weapons system was “set through the great success of the important test”.

Kim announced in 2021 that he wanted to modernise the military and announced a series of technologically-advanced weapons systems, including a hypersonic missile, that North Korea planned to develop.

The country conducted a test of an intermediate-range hypersonic missile in January which it said involved a new solid-fuel engine.

KCNA did not elaborate on the engine tested on Tuesday or reveal the technical nature of the test.

Solid-fuel missiles can be launched more quickly than their liquid-fuelled counterparts and are easier to move and conceal, which theoretically makes them harder to detect.

Hypersonic weapons are designed to fly at speeds in excess of five times the speed of sound. If perfected, such systems could potentially pose a challenge to regional missile defence systems because of their speed and manoeuvrability.

Pyongyang’s latest announcement came a day after North Korea said Kim oversaw drills involving “newly-equipped super-large” multiple rocket launchers.

North Korea has been engaged in a provocative run of missile tests since 2022. The US and South Korean militaries have responded by expanding their bilateral exercises and trilateral drills involving Japan.

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