North Korea successfully conducts ground-jet test for new hypersonic missile

North Korea has successfully conducted a ground-jet test of a solid-fuel engine for a new type of intermediate hypersonic missile amid heightened tensions on the Korean peninsula, according to Yonhap News Agency.

Reportedly, hypersonic missiles are on the list of sophisticated weapons North Korean leader Kim Jong-un vowed to develop during a key party congress in 2021, along with nuclear-powered submarines, spy satellites and solid-fuel intercontinental ballistic missiles.

The missiles travel at a speed of at least Mach 5, five times the speed of sound, and are designed to be maneuverable on unpredictable flight paths and fly at low altitudes.

At Mach 5 or higher, such a missile would be able to traverse the 195 kilometres between Pyongyang and Seoul in just one to two minutes, as reported by Yonhap News Agency.

“The military strategic value of this weapon system is appreciated as important as ICBM from the security environment of our state and the operational demand of the People’s Army and enemies know better about it,” Kim said at the Sohae Satellite Launching Ground on the country’s west coast on Tuesday.

The Korean Central News Agency stated that the North was able to set a timetable for completing the development of a new hypersonic missile weapons system with the success of the latest ground engine test.

In November last year, North Korea also carried out ground tests of what it called newly developed solid-fuel engines for a new type of intermediate-range ballistic missile (IRBM).

On January 14, the North test-fired a solid-fuel IRBM tipped with a hypersonic warhead in its first ballistic missile launch this year, according to Yonhap News Agency.

The latest test came just a day after the North conducted firing drills involving super-large multiple rocket launchers, its second ballistic missile launch of the year.

The South Korean military said on Monday that it had detected the firing of multiple short-range ballistic missiles near Pyongyang.

The North’s Monday missile launch, which followed the annual Freedom Shield military exercise by Seoul and Washington, was also timed with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s visit to Seoul.

The US reassurance came hours after Pyongyang fired multiple short-range ballistic missiles toward its eastern waters, a statement released from South Korea’s presidential office said.

Blinken arrived in South Korea on Sunday to attend the third Summit of Democracy hosted by South Korea, a US-led multinational gathering formed to boost solidarity and shared values among democratic countries.

Blinken called for continuing close coordination and communication between the allies, while further strengthening their “extended deterrence” and the US’s commitment to using the full range of its military capabilities, including nuclear, to defend its allies.

In January, Kim called for revising the country’s constitution to define South Korea as its “primary foe” and codify a commitment to subjugate the South Korean territory in the event of war, as reported by Yonhap News Agency.