North Korea says it is making great strides in developing hypersonic weapons

The rocket taking off in this photo is a hypersonic model, according to the North Korean government.AP Image

Pyongyang surprised the world by testing a hypersonic rocket for the first time in September. Until then, only the Americans, the Russians and the Chinese were working on this “weapon of the future”. The penniless North Korea has also stunned neighboring countries and the United States over the past two decades by successfully developing nuclear weapons, as well as a long-range missile that could strike the United States.

Hypersonic weapons fly towards their target at at least five times the speed of sound. Due to their great maneuverability in flight, they could pose a threat to the American missile defense system, which is supposed to protect the American continent against a nuclear missile attack.

Boarding crafts

Hypersonic weapons are launched with a missile. After launch, a triangular glider, which can be equipped with a nuclear weapon, disengages from the missile and moves towards its target with tremendous speed.

The South Korean military was the first to announce the new North Korean test on Tuesday, after a test was also carried out last week. According to Seoul, the hypersonic weapon flew at a speed ten times the speed of sound, about 12,000 kilometers per hour, and ended up in the sea after flying 700 kilometers. South Korea admitted the weapon was “quite advanced”.

According to North Korea, the glider, the Hwasong-8, traveled about 1,000 kilometers before hitting a target in the sea between Japan and Russia.

Pyongyang, which only paid full attention to the launch on Wednesday, says the weapon demonstrated “superior maneuverability” in flight and performed several maneuvers. The presence of Kim Jong-un, who attended the launch with his powerful sister from a bus, shows how much the North Korean leader attaches to the development of a hypersonic arsenal.

It was Kim Jong-un’s first appearance in a missile test in nearly two years. He also had numerous photographs taken during the launches of the Hwasong-15 long-range missile, a missile of great concern to the United States.

Kim Jong-un (right) follows the test launch of the hypersonic missile through a monitor.  AP Image

Kim Jong-un (right) follows the test launch of the hypersonic missile through a monitor.AP Image


According to North Korean state media, Kim called the development of a hypersonic weapon “the most important” of five military priorities he set just a year ago to increase the strength of the military. North Korean army.

After the test, he celebrated the successful launch in Pyongyang with the military and scientists behind the hypersonic weapons program and a group photo was taken.

Much like after the first test in September, the United States, South Korea and Japan reacted with concern to the relaunch. The United States has called it a “threat to neighboring countries and the international community.” Due to North Korea’s progress in developing a hypersonic weapon, cruise missiles and underwater missiles, the United States and South Korea decided in December to update their war plan. secret for a possible conflict with Pyongyang.


Washington on Wednesday called Pyongyang again for dialogue to curb its expanded missile and nuclear program. Previous attempts to do so have failed under the Trump administration, despite two historic meetings between Trump and Kim Jong-un.

North Korea calls for the lifting of international sanctions against the country. The United States, in turn, wants firm commitments and, above all, concrete actions from Kim to dismantle North Korean weapons programs. If Pyongyang claims to have succeeded in developing its hypersonic missile, the North Koreans, like the Americans, the Chinese and the Russians, are still far from having one operational.

“North Korea will need at least some successful longer-term tests, which will likely take at least a few years,” proliferation expert Vann van Diepen said in an analysis on 38North, a site that closely follows developments in North Korea – Van Diepen was Under Secretary of State for International Security in the Obama administration.


The United States is also concerned about China’s remarkable progress. Much to the astonishment of the Pentagon, China managed to orbit a hypersonic weapon in space last summer. Chinese generals and scientists have used technology designed to attack another country from low Earth orbit.

The United States must now take into account that in wartime China can strike with a hypersonic weapon from a direction, via the South Pole, that they had not considered at all. Since both Chinese and Russian long-range missiles pass through the North Pole, the US missile shield is mainly aimed in that direction. The United States itself is working on, among other things, a hypersonic cruise missile, but many American projects are plagued by technical problems.

Russia is also very active in the field of hypersonic weapons. It continuously performs tests with the Tsirkon hypersonic cruise missile, which is launched from ships. Moscow even claims that another hypersonic weapon, the Avangard, has been operational and ready for use for three years. But this has yet to be confirmed by the Pentagon and independent sources.

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