North's first missile test of 2022 was hypersonic
The projectile North Korea fired on Wednesday morning was a hypersonic missile that successfully hit its target, according to the regime's state news agency.
The Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported that the North’s Academy of National Defense Science, which is responsible for the country’s missile program, conducted a test of a hypersonic missile on Wednesday.
“After the launch, the hypersonic gliding warhead detached from the missile and flew 120 km (75 miles) laterally before it precisely hit its target 700 km away,” KCNA reported.
The state news agency said the test checked the hypersonic unit’s flight control capability and its operability in winter conditions.
While North Korean leader Kim Jong-un did not personally oversee the launch, the test was observed from the launch point in the country’s northeastern Chagang province by members of the ruling Korean Workers’ Party’s Central Committee and defense science academy leaders.
Wednesday’s test – the North’s first missile launch in the new year – came 78 days after the country fired a submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM).
It also follows a test of a similar hypersonic Hwasong-8 missile conducted on Sept. 27, signaling a fast pace for the regime’s missile development program.
Hypersonic glide missiles can avoid detection longer than ballistic missiles because they fly towards targets at lower altitudes – thereby evading radar systems – at 6,200 km per hour, or five times the speed of sound.
Wednesday launch, which was first reported by the Japanese Coast Guard and later the South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS), triggered an emergency meeting of a National Security Council (NSC) meeting that morning in Seoul, which was presided over by South Korean Defense Minister Suh Wook, according to the Blue House.
The Blue House later released a statement in which it said the NSC “expressed concerns over North Korea's launch at a time when stability is very necessary at home and abroad” and that council members agreed that talks with the North are needed to defuse tensions on the peninsula.
That sentiment was echoed by President Moon Jae-in on Wednesday, who mentioned the test at a groundbreaking ceremony for a railroad between the eastern city of Gangneung and Jejin Station in Goseong County, Gangwon.
“We will not let go of the thread of dialogue” in order to “fundamentally overcome these kinds of situations,” Moon said in his remarks.
Under a 2002 inter-Korean deal, Jejin Station was linked in 2007 to the North's Gamho Station, on the other side of the Demilitarized Zone, in hopes that an inter-Korean rail line would one day facilitate trade and travel between the two Koreas.
The South Korean Unification Ministry called on the North to “respond positively and sincerely” to the South’s efforts to “forge communication and peace through dialogue” in a Wednesday statement.
Pyongyang has not responded to repeated calls from Seoul and Washington for it to return to denuclearization talks, which collapsed in a summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and U.S. president Donald Trump in 2019 in Vietnam.
Although the administration of U.S. President Joe Biden has repeatedly said it is willing to meet North Korean representatives "anytime, anywhere" without preconditions, Pyongyang has dismissed Washington's “hostile” policies.
At a plenary meeting of the Central Committee of the country’s ruling Workers' Party last week, Kim vowed to continue building up his regime’s weapons capabilities.
Over the past year, Pyongyang conducted seven major weapons tests, firing not only a new SLBM and hypersonic missile but also a long-range cruise missile and a train-launched ballistic missile unit.
Under United Nations Security Council resolutions, the North is prohibited from testing ballistic missiles, but not cruise missiles.
BY MICHAEL LEE [firstname.lastname@example.org]