hypersonic threats

Earlier this week, North Korea’s state news media KCNA said, the country has test-fired a hypersonic missile joining a race to deploy the advanced weapons system.

The missile test occurred on the east coast towards the sea, said South Korea’s military.

Pyongyang, which counts China as its only ally, has called on South Korea and on the United States to restart diplomatic talks.

Impoverished North Korea has steadily developed weapon systems midst an impasse over talks aimed at dismantling its nuclear and ballistic missile arsenals in return for U.S. sanctions relief.

Unlike ballistic missiles which fly into outer space before descending on steep trajectories towards their target, hypersonic weapons fly at lower altitudes at speeds up to Mach 5.

Going by data gathered from North Korea’s test, its hypersonic missile appears to be at an early stage of development and is likely to take “considerable period of time” until it could be deployed in combat, said South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff on Wednesday.

KCNA described the missile as a “strategic weapon” meaning it can carry a nuclear warhead. The test increases North Korea’s defence capabilities.

KCNA’s report states, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un did not inspect the launch.

“In the first test-launch, national defence scientists confirmed the navigational control and stability of the missile,” states the report.

The missile, which KCNA called Hwasong-8, performed technical tests “including the guiding maneuverability and the gliding flight characteristics of the detached hypersonic gliding warhead.”

Accelerated Weapons development

With the recent test of the hypersonic missile, North Korea entered a small of countries which have this capability which includes its only ally China.

Hypersonic weapons are considered next generation weapons that rob adversaries of reaction time as well as legacy defeat mechanisms.

On Monday, the United States said, North Korea has tested an air-breathing hypersonic weapon, marking the first successful test of this weapon class since 2013.

According to Chang Young-keun, a missile specialist at the Korea Aerospace University, North Korea’s test of the hypersonic gliding vehicle (HGV) was most probably a failure given that the flight was clocked at Mach 2.5.

“The North’s HGV technology is not comparable to those of the U.S., Russia or China and for now seems to aim for short-range that can target South Korea or Japan,” said Chang.

Last week, the North Korean dictator said, he was willing to consider a summit with South Korea only if mutual respect between the two countries can be assured.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in has called for a declaration to formally end the 1950-1953 Korean War.

De-nuclearisation negotiations, initiated by former U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in 2018, have stalled since 2019.