SEOUL, South Korea – North Korean leader Kim Jong Un called for strengthening the country’s strategic armed forces as he watched a hypersonic missile test, state media said Wednesday and officially participated in a missile launch for the first time in nearly two years.
On Tuesday, authorities in South Korea and Japan discovered the alleged shooting down, condemned by authorities around the world, which raised concerns to the United Nations Secretary-General.
The second “supersonic missile” test in less than a week underscored Kim’s New Year’s promise to provide cutting-edge technology to the military while talks with South Korea and the US stalled.
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After Kim saw the test, Kim urged the military scientists to “further accelerate efforts to steadily build the country’s strategic military power, both qualitatively and quantitatively, and to further modernize the army,” reported the KCNA news agency.
It was the first time since March 2020 that Kim officially participated in a missile test.
“His presence here would draw special attention to this program,” said Ankit Panda, Senior Fellow of the US Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. posted on twitter.
Unlike some other recent tests, the ruling party’s Rodong Sinmun newspaper published photos of Kim attending the show on its front page.
“While Kim has probably unofficially participated in other tests in the meantime, this appearance and his Page One role over Rodong Sinmun is important.” said Chad O’Carroll, Managing Director of Korea Risk Group, which oversees North Korea. “It means that Kim doesn’t care about being personally associated (with) testing important new technologies. And it doesn’t matter how the US sees it. “
UN Security Council resolutions ban all North Korean missile and nuclear tests and have imposed sanctions on the programs.
Talks aimed at convincing North Korea to abandon or limit its arsenal of nuclear weapons and missiles have stalled. Pyongyang said it was open to diplomacy, but only if the United States and its allies stop “hostile policies” such as sanctions or military exercises.
The US Secretary of State for Political Affairs, Victoria Nuland, described the starts as dangerous and destabilizing.
“It is obviously leading us in the wrong direction,” she said at a regular briefing in Washington on Tuesday. “As you know, since this administration took office, the United States has been saying that we are open to dialogue with North Korea, that we are open to talk about Covid and humanitarian aid, and that we are firing missiles instead.”
The European Union on Tuesday condemned the recent North Korean missile launch as a “threat to international peace and security” and called on Pyongyang to resume diplomacy.
Despite their name, analysts say that the main characteristic of hypersonic weapons is not their speed – which can sometimes be matched or exceeded by conventional ballistic missile warheads – but their maneuverability, which makes them an acute threat to missile defense systems.
Photos released by state media appeared to show the same type of missile and warhead that were first tested last week, analysts said.
“The test fire was aimed at the final review of the overall technical specifications of the hypersonic weapon system developed,” reported KCNA.
Once released from the rocket booster, a hypersonic glider made a 600 km (375 mile) “glide jump” flight and then 240 km “corkscrew maneuver” before hitting a target 1,000 km away at sea, the report said.
South Korean officials had questioned the missile’s capabilities after the initial test last week, saying it did not appear to demonstrate the range and maneuverability claimed in a state media report and was showing a maneuverable warhead rather than an actual planing vehicle.
However, on Tuesday, South Korea said the second test appeared to show improved performance, with the missile reaching top speeds up to 10 times the speed of sound (12,348 km per hour / 7,673 mph), although they made no comment on maneuverability.