North Korea claims third hypersonic missile test

North Korea says it has conducted another hypersonic missile test under the watch of its leader, Kim Jong-un.

State media said the missile fired on Tuesday had successfully made a turn before hitting its target in the sea some 1,000km (621 miles) away.

It marks North Korea’s third reported test of a hypersonic missile which can avoid detection for longer than ballistic missiles.

Mr Jong-un’s presence could indicate the technology has improved, said analysts.

The latest ramp-up in testing would appear to support Mr Kim’s stated New Year’s goals where he vowed to bolster North Korea’s defence capabilities.

It came as six countries – including the US – issued a joint statement condemning last week’s apparent test. Urging the North to cease its “destabilising actions” to the region.

South Korea’s military initially downplayed the hypersonic missile claims but later said it demonstrated “improvement” from previous tests, said news site Yonhap.

North Korea state outlet KCNA praised the test, saying the “superior maneuverability” of the missile had been “strikingly verified through the final test-fire”.

Their report claimed the glide missile had made a 600 km (375 mile) “glide jump flight,” followed by 240 km of “corkscrew maneuvering” before hitting its target.

The closed-off nation first reported conducting a hypersonic missile test in September 2021.

Hypersonic glide missiles are dangerous for several reasons.

Unlike ballistic missiles which travel in a largely predictable parabola, making them vulnerable to interception, hypersonic weapons can traverse laterally, close to the earth’s surface and hit a target in a much shorter flight time.

In addition, hypersonic weapons can also achieve more than five times the speed of sound – or about 6,200km/h (3,850mph). All these features make them harder to track and intercept.

According to the BBC’s Security Correspondent, Frank Gardner, these hypersonic missiles are also worrying as they also leave nations guessing whether they are carrying a conventional high explosive warhead or a nuclear one.

North Korea joins a small number of countries, including the United States and China, in attempting to develop hypersonic missiles.

During the on-site inspection, Mr Jong-uncalled for the strengthening of the country’s “strategic military muscle both in quality and quantity”, South Korean news outlet, Yonhap, reported. -BBC

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