North Korea’s Kim oversaw test of new hypersonic weapon

MONITORING (SW) – North Korea has said it tested a new solid-fueled hypersonic intermediate-range missile (IRBM) as it continues to expand its weapons programme.

Wednesday’s report in the state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) came a day after South Korea and Japan detected the launch of a missile from North Korea towards the east.

North Korea has fired a suspected intermediate-range ballistic missile into the sea off its east coast. South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said that it detected the launch from the area of the North Korean capital Pyongyang on Tuesday at 6.53 a.m..

KCNA shared photos of leader Kim Jong Un on site near the weapon, the Hwasong-16B, as well as with his military commanders, less than two weeks after he supervised a solid-fuel engine test for an IRBM.

Kim lauded the weapon as a demonstration of the “absolute superiority” of North Korea’s defense technology. Pyongyang had developed nuclear-capable, solid-fuel systems for “all the tactical, operational and strategic missiles with various ranges”, he added, according to KCNA.

A missile is launched, as the state media reports North Korea test-fired a new mid- to long-range solid-fuel hypersonic missile, at an unknown location in North Korea, April 2, 2024, in this picture released on April 3, 2024, by the Korean Central News Agency. [KCNA via REUTERS]
The North Korean leader promised to further develop the country’s arsenal to counter his “enemies”, a reference to Japan, South Korea and the United States.

KCNA said the Hwasong-16B flew for about 1,000km (621 miles), reaching a peak altitude of 101km (62 miles). Seoul’s military said it was airborne for about 600km (370 miles) before splashing down in the sea between South Korea and Japan.

North Korea has focused on developing more sophisticated solid-fuel weapons because they are easier to conceal and move, and can be launched more quickly. Liquid-propelled weapons need to be fueled before launch and cannot stay fueled for long periods of time, said Al Jazeera.

Hypersonic weapons, meanwhile, are designed to exceed five times the speed of sound and can also be maneuvered in flight.

North Korea previously said it tested a hypersonic IRBM in January.

The Tuesday launch “appears to be part of Pyongyang’s missile development blueprint, including hypersonic weapons”, said Han Kwon-hee of the Korea Association of Defence Industry Studies.