0841 GMT January 20, 2022
On Tuesday, authorities in South Korea and Japan detected the suspected launch, Reuters reported.
The second test of a “hypersonic missile” in less than a week underscored Kim’s New Year’s vow to bolster the military with cutting-edge technology at a time when talks with South Korea and the United States have stalled.
After watching the test, Kim urged military scientists to “further accelerate the efforts to steadily build up the country’s strategic military muscle both in quality and quantity and further modernize the army,” KCNA news agency reported.
It was the first time since March 2020 that Kim had officially attended a missile test.
Despite their name, analysts say the main feature of hypersonic weapons is not speed – which can sometimes be matched or exceeded by traditional ballistic missile warheads – but their manoeuvrability, which makes them an acute threat to missile defence systems.
Photos released by state media appeared to show the same type of missile and warhead that was first tested last week, analysts said.
“The test-fire was aimed at the final verification of overall technical specifications of the developed hypersonic weapon system,” KCNA reported.
After its release from the rocket booster, a hypersonic glide vehicle made a 600km (375 mile) “glide jump flight” and then 240km of “corkscrew maneuvering” before hitting a target in the sea 1,000 km away, the report said.
South Korean officials had questioned the capabilities of the missile after the first test last week, saying it did not appear to demonstrate the range and manoeuverability claimed in a state media report and featured a manoeuverable warhead rather than an actual glide vehicle.
On Tuesday, however, South Korea said the second test appeared to show improved performance, with the missile reaching top speeds up to 10 times the speed of sound (12,348 km per hour / 7,673 miles per hour), although they did not comment on its manoeuverability.
“The superior manoeuverability of the hypersonic glide vehicle was more strikingly verified through the final test-fire,” KCNA said.
Talks aimed at persuading North Korea to surrender or limit its arsenal of nuclear weapons and missiles have stalled, with Pyongyang saying it is open to diplomacy but only if the United States and its allies stop “hostile policies” such as sanctions or military drills.