Seoul: North Korea has successfully tested a hypersonic missile, state media reported Thursday, in the first major weapons test by the nuclear-armed nation this year.
This was the second reported North Korean test of a hypersonic gliding missile to date, following one in September last year, as it looks to add the sophisticated weapon to its arsenal.
Hypersonic missiles move far faster and are more agile than standard ones, making them much harder for missile defence systems - on which the US is spending billions - to intercept.
The missile was test-fired on Wednesday and carried a “hypersonic gliding warhead” that “precisely hit a target 700 km away”, the official Korea Central News Agency (KCNA) said.
The test on Wednesday “reconfirmed the flight control and stability of the missile in the active-flight stage and assessed the performance of the new lateral movement technique applied to the detached hypersonic gliding warhead”, KCNA said.
The launch also verified the “fuel ampoule system under winter weather conditions”, it added.
Seoul and Tokyo on Wednesday had detected the launch of a suspected ballistic missile from North Korea that fell in the sea east of the Korean peninsula.
The United States condemned the launch, urging Pyongyang to sit down for talks.
“This launch is in violation of multiple UN Security Council resolutions and poses a threat to the DPRK’s neighbours and the international community,” a State Department spokesperson said, referring to the North by its official name.
Dialogue between Washington and Pyongyang remains stalled, following the collapse of talks between Kim and then president Donald Trump in 2019.
Under Trump’s successor Joe Biden, the United States has repeatedly declared its willingness to meet North Korean representatives, while saying it will seek denuclearisation.
But Pyongyang has so far dismissed the offer, accusing Washington of pursuing “hostile” policies.
In the decade since Kim Jong Un took power North Korea has made rapid progress in its military technology, at the cost of international sanctions.
Its first weapons test of 2022 followed a year of major arms tests despite severe economic hardship during the coronavirus pandemic.
The worsening economic situation has not blunted those programmes, and North Korea has continued to pursue weapons development, a UN report said in October.
Concerns have grown about a full-blown food crisis in North Korea, and a United Nations human rights expert warned in October that the most vulnerable were “at risk of starvation”.