North Korea claims that it has test-fired a hypersonic missile toward the Sea of Japan for the second time as it escalates its weapon testing program.
According to the Washington Post, the communist country test-fired what neighbouring South Korea and Japan are describing as a ballistic missile on Wednesday, effectively violating the treaties the country previously agreed to abide by with the United Nations Security Council.
The U.S. Indo-Pacific Command confirmed the North Korean launch in a Wednesday press release, referring to it as a “ballistic missile” while not confirming any hypersonic capabilities.
“We are aware of the ballistic missile launch and are consulting closely with our allies and partners,” the INDOPACOM statement read. “While we have assessed that this event does not pose an immediate threat to U.S. personnel or territory, or to our allies, the ballistic missile launch highlights the destabilizing impact of the DPRK’s illicit weapons program. The U.S. commitment to the defense of the Republic of Korea and Japan remains ironclad.”
The state media in Pyongyang confirmed the test a day after the successful firing, claiming that the country launched a “hypersonic gliding warhead” and provided pictures purportedly showing that it was a new model unveiled at a defence summit last year.
The Communist government in Pyongyang claims that in Wednesday’s test, the glider successfully detached from its rocket booster, flying a further 75 miles, and striking a target 435 miles away. North Korea also claims that the new weapon can operate in cold weather conditions.
North Korea claimed to have successfully completed a hypersonic missile test in September, describing the launch as an achievement of “great strategic significance.”
“It is a step forward [in the North’s weapons program]. It’s a step that the United States took in the 1980s and the South Koreans took several years ago,” explained Jeffrey Lewis, director of the East Asia Nonproliferation Program at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies. “So it’s not some wild new science fiction technology, but it does improve their ability to deliver nuclear weapons against targets in South Korea and evade missile defences.”
Lewis told the Washington Post that the photos released by North Korea show that the missile weapon is similar to ones developed by the United States in the 1980s.
On Wednesday, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said, “The fact that North Korea has continued to launch missiles [in recent months] is absolutely regrettable. We will continue to strengthen our surveillance more than ever.”