North Korea says Kim Jong Un oversaw latest hypersonic missile test

The missile has further stoked tensions with the U.S. and its allies as Kim ignores calls for a return to stalled nuclear talks.
North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un.(Reuters)
North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un.(Reuters)
Published on Jan 12, 2022 04:34 AM IST
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Bloomberg |

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un personally oversaw his regime’s latest hypersonic missile test on Tuesday, official media reported, as he pushes to develop weapons to counter U.S. defenses. 

The Korean Central News Agency said the hypersonic glide vehicle made a 240-kilometer (150-mile) “corkscrew” maneuver during flight to hit a target in waters 1,000 kilometers away. It called the launch “a great success in the field of developing hypersonic weapon, which is of the most important strategic significance.”

“The superior maneuverability of the hypersonic glide vehicle was more strikingly verified through the final test-fire,” KCNA said on Wednesday. 

Kim congratulated the scientists involved, the report said, and stressed “the need to further accelerate the efforts to steadily build up the country’s strategic military muscle both in quality and quantity.” 

The missile, which flew at almost 10 times the speed of sound, has further stoked tensions with the U.S. and its allies as Kim ignores calls for a return to stalled nuclear talks. Shares of South Korea’s so-called “peace stocks,” which tend to benefit from talks between Seoul and Pyongyang, slipped Tuesday.

The missile test took place at daybreak, KCNA said in its report, describing how Kim witnessed the advanced missile “brightening the dawning sky and leaving behind it a column of fire.” 

North Korea last week claimed a successful test of a “hypersonic gliding warhead” that turned 120 kilometers from its original flight path, potentially showing its ability to get around U.S. anti-missile systems deployed in South Korea.

The fact that Kim’s presence at the launch was noted by official media is significant, according to Ankit Panda, a senior fellow in the nuclear policy program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

“His presence here would suggest particular attention on this program,” Panda, author of the book “Kim Jong Un and the Bomb: Survival and Deterrence in North Korea,” wrote on Twitter. “Everything about this test is a reminder that North Korea is all-in on a new military modernization campaign.”

Nuclear talks between the U.S. and North Korea broke down about two years ago after a brief revival under former President Donald Trump. The Biden administration has said the door is open for talks and indicated it would be willing to consider economic incentives to reward North Korea for taking steps to wind down its nuclear arsenal.

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