North Korea announces testing of hypersonic missile

North Korea qualified hypersonic missiles in 2021 as “First priorities” of its five-year plan. She was quick to confirm this in 2022. The official North Korean agency KCNA reported on Thursday (January 6th) that Pyongyang carried out a test shot the day before which carried a « ogive hypersonique » who has “Accurately hits a target 700 km away”, according to KCNA.

The agency did not specify the speed of the fired projectile and neighboring countries did not release an estimate, but hypersonic missiles typically reach Mach 5, or five times the speed of sound.

The launch enabled “Reconfirm the flight control and stability of the missile in active flight phase and evaluate the performance of the new lateral movement technique applied to the detached hypersonic warhead”, KCNA said. The test also verified the “Fuel bulb system in winter weather conditions”, the agency added.

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This is the second time North Korea has reported firing a hypersonic missile, a sophisticated weapon that attests to advances by the North Korean defense industry. After testing the Hwasong-8 in September 2021, the South Korean military estimated the missile to be in the early stages of its development.

Faster and more maneuverable missiles

This type of missile is faster and more maneuverable than a standard missile, making it more difficult for defense systems to intercept, on which the United States spends billions of dollars. Depending on their design, supersonic missiles can carry conventional or nuclear warheads and can shift the strategic balance.

On Wednesday, South Korea and Japan had detected a firing by Pyongyang of an unidentified projectile, which would be a ballistic missile, in the sea located to the east of the peninsula (Sea of ​​Japan, or East Sea according to the ‘Korean name). The United States condemned this shooting which according to them “Violates several UN Security Council resolutions and poses a threat to North Korea’s neighbors and the international community”.

This first weapons test in 2022 follows a year of major tests despite the serious impact of the pandemic on the country’s economy. The crisis has not affected military programs and Pyongyang continues to expand its arsenal, a UN report unveiled in October. But in the country, concern about a serious food crisis has grown and a UN human rights expert warned in October that the most vulnerable people were “Threatened with famine”.

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Le Monde with AP and AFP

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North Korea announces testing of hypersonic missile