The early morning launch came as the UN Security Council met in New York to discuss last week’s test of what Pyongyang called a hypersonic missile, though Seoul has cast doubt on that claim.
But the South Korean military said the “suspicious ballistic missile” launched Tuesday had reached hypersonic speeds, a sign of “progress” from last week’s test.
In the decade since leader Kim Jong Un took power, North Korea has seen rapid advances in its military technology at the cost of international sanctions.
Tuesday’s missile landed outside Japan’s exclusive economic zone. While there were no immediate reports of damage, Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida called the launch “extremely regrettable.”
The United States condemned what it called a “ballistic missile launch” and reaffirmed its commitment to defend both South Korea and Japan.
“This launch violates multiple UN Security Council Resolutions and poses a threat to the DPRK’s neighbors and the international community,” the department said, using the abbreviation for North Korea’s official name.
“We remain committed to a diplomatic approach towards the DPRK and ask them to enter into a dialogue.”
The missile, fired into the sea east of the peninsula on Tuesday around 7:27 a.m. (22:27 GMT Monday), flew 700 kilometers (435 miles) at an altitude of around 60 kilometers (37 miles) at a speed of Mach 10, said the Joint satellite of Seoul. said the chiefs of staff.
Hypersonic missiles travel at speeds of Mach 5 and higher and can maneuver mid-flight, making them more difficult to track and intercept.
The UN Security Council meeting to discuss Pyongyang’s weapons programs came after six countries, including the United States and Japan, called on North Korea to “engage in meaningful dialogue toward our shared goal of complete denuclearization. ”.
Pyongyang had probably planned the latest launch to coincide with the UN meeting “to maximize its political impact,” Shin Beom-chul, a researcher at the Korea National Strategy Research Institute, told AFP.
He said Tuesday’s launch looked like a hypersonic missile test, judging by the alleged speed, but cautioned against over-interpretation.
“Since South Korea claimed [the January 5 test] It was not a hypersonic missile that referred to speed, Pyongyang may have tried to show its maximum speed, ”this time, he said.
Hypersonic missiles were included among the “top priority” tasks for strategic weapons in its current five-year plan, and it announced its first test, the Hwasong-8, in September last year.
Pyongyang has also said it successfully tested new submarine-launched ballistic missiles, a long-range cruise missile and a train-launched weapon in 2021.
The new evidence comes as North Korea has refused to respond to calls from the United States for talks.
At a key meeting of North Korea’s ruling party last month, Kim vowed to continue developing the country’s defense capabilities, not to mention the United States.
Rather than the political positions on diplomacy, for which Kim’s New Year’s statements are closely watched, he focused on food security and economic development.
The dialogue between Washington and Pyongyang remains stalled and the country is under multiple international sanctions for its nuclear and ballistic missile programs.
The impoverished nation has also been under a rigid, self-imposed coronavirus lockdown that has hit its economy.
Source Credit: TheGuardian
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