N.Korea’s Kim calls for more ‘military muscle’ after watching hypersonic missile test

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un speaks at the Eighth Korean People’s Army Military Educators Conference at the Culture House April 25 in Pyongyang, North Korea, in this undated photo released on April 7 December 2021. KCNA via REUTERS

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  • Launch detected Tuesday by Japan and South Korea
  • Kim officially in testing for the first time since March 2020
  • US, EU condemn testing as threat to peace
  • Tests follow Kim’s vow to bolster military forces

SEOUL, Jan. 12 (Reuters) – North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has called for strengthening the country’s strategic military forces as he observes the test of a hypersonic missile, state media said on Wednesday, officially attending a missile launch for the first time in nearly two years.

Authorities in South Korea and Japan detected the alleged launch on Tuesday, which was condemned by authorities around the world and prompted an expression of concern from the UN secretary-general. Read more

The second test of a “hypersonic missile” in less than a week underscored Kim’s vow to bolster the military with cutting-edge technology at a time when talks with South Korea and the United States are at stake. dead point.

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After watching the test, Kim urged military scientists to “further accelerate efforts to gradually strengthen the country’s strategic military power in quality and quantity and further modernize the military,” KCNA news agency reported. .

It was the first time since March 2020 that Kim had officially attended a missile test.

“His presence here would suggest special attention to this program,” Ankit Panda, senior researcher at the US-based Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, posted on Twitter.

Unlike other recent tests, ruling party newspaper Rodong Sinmun posted photos of Kim attending the launch on the front page.

“While Kim has likely unofficially witnessed other tests in the meantime, this appearance and his reporting on Rodong Sinmun is important,” said Chad O’Carroll, managing director of Korea Risk Group, which monitors North Korea. . “This means Kim doesn’t mind being personally associated (with) testing major new technology. And doesn’t care how the United States sees it.”

UN Security Council resolutions ban all testing of North Korean ballistic and nuclear missiles and have imposed sanctions on the programs.

Talks to persuade North Korea to surrender or limit its arsenal of nuclear weapons and missiles have stalled, with Pyongyang saying it is open to diplomacy, but only if the United States and its allies put end to “hostile policies” such as sanctions or military exercises.

US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Victoria Nuland called the launches dangerous and unsettling.

“This is obviously taking us in the wrong direction,” she said at a regular briefing in Washington on Tuesday. “As you know, the United States has been saying since this administration took over that we are open to dialogue with North Korea, that we are open to talking about COVID and humanitarian aid, and instead, they fire missiles. “

The European Union condemned the latest North Korean missile fire on Tuesday as a “threat to international peace and security” and called on Pyongyang to resume diplomacy.

“SUPERIOR MANEUVERABILITY”

Despite their name, analysts claim that the main characteristic of hypersonic weapons is not speed – which can sometimes be equal to or exceeded by traditional ballistic missile warheads – but their maneuverability, which makes them an acute threat to military systems. missile defense.

Photos released by state media appear to show the same type of missile and warhead that was first tested last week, analysts said.

“The test firing was aimed at the final verification of the overall technical specifications of the developed hypersonic weapon system,” KCNA reported.

After exiting the rocket thruster, a hypersonic glide vehicle performed a 600 km (375 mile) “glide” then 240 km of “corkscrew maneuver” before hitting a target at sea 1,000 km away. , according to the report.

South Korean officials had questioned the missile’s capabilities after the first test last week, saying it did not appear to demonstrate the range and maneuverability claimed in a state media report and that it featured a handy warhead rather than a real sliding vehicle.

On Tuesday, however, South Korea said the second test appeared to show improved performance, with the missile reaching top speeds of up to 10 times the speed of sound (12,348 km / h / 7,673 miles per hour), although they have not commented on its maneuverability.

“The superior handling of the hypersonic glide vehicle was most vividly verified during the final test firing,” KCNA said.

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Reporting by Hyonhee Shin and Josh Smith; additional reporting by David Brunnstrom in Washington; edited by Jonathan Oatis and Richard Pullin

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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