North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un personally oversaw the successful test of a hypersonic missile, state media reported on Wednesday, the second such launch by the nuclear-armed nation in less than a week.
The missile carrying a “hypersonic gliding vehicle” hit “the set target in waters 1,000km off,” the official Korea Central News Agency (KCNA) said.
Photographs posted on the website of Rodong Sinmun, the official newspaper of the ruling Workers’ Party, showed Kim Jong Un wearing a long black leather coat and using binoculars to watch the missile blast off from his mobile viewing platform.
“The superior manoeuvrability of the hypersonic glide vehicle was more strikingly verified through the final test-fire,” the KCNA report said.
Other images in Rodong Sinmun showed the missile blasting off from land at dawn in a blaze of fire and smoke, and Kim discussing charts with uniformed officials.
“Respected Comrade Kim Jong-un listened to a comprehensive commentary on the hypersonic missile weapon system from the director of the National Defence Science Academy prior to the test launch,” according to a Rodong Sinmun report.
“The test firing was conducted with the purpose of finally confirming the overall technical characteristics of the developed hypersonic weapon system.”
Hypersonic gliding missile
This is the third reported North Korean test of a hypersonic gliding missile to date, following one in September 2021 and one last week, as the country looks to add the sophisticated weapon to its arsenal.
“Kim Jong Un’s attendance at the missile test suggests that the level of completion of the hypersonic missile has reached a satisfactory level,” Lim Eul-chul, a professor of North Korean studies at Kyungnam University in Seoul, said.
South Korea’s military said the launch on Tuesday had reached hypersonic speeds and showed clear signs of “progress” from last week’s test.
The KCNA report said that the hypersonic glide vehicle “made glide jump flight from 600km area before making a 240km corkscrew.”
Hypersonic missiles travel at speeds of Mach 5 and higher and can manoeuvre mid-flight, making them harder to track and intercept.
Russia, the US and China have all said they have successfully tested hypersonic glide vehicles, with Russia generally seen as the world leader in the technology so far.
- AFP with additional editing by George Russell