SEOUL – North Korea fired a ballistic missile off its east coast on Tuesday, the second weapons test in a week as the UN Security Council met to discuss the country’s growing missile threat.
With its latest launch, North Korea appears to have shown progress in developing what it calls a hypersonic missile, the South Korean military said. The rocket flew about 435 miles at speeds up to Mach 10, which is 10 times the speed of sound.
It wasn’t just the speed of the new missile that highlighted North Korea’s growing missile threat to the United States military and its allies in the region. The new missiles that North Korea tested last week also had a so-called agile reentry vehicle, or warhead, that can interfere with missile defense systems by changing course in the atmosphere after it is separated from the launch vehicle. officials said.
When North Korea conducted its final test of a hypersonic missile off its east coast on Wednesday, South Korea declined to call it hypersonic, noting that it flew at Mach 6. much faster.
“Our military is able to detect and shoot down a missile launched by North Korea today, and we continue to strengthen our response system,” the South Korean military said in a statement on Tuesday.
However, the North’s latest test, he said, poses “a grave threat to international peace and stability.” The US military in South Korea said that while the test “poses no immediate threat” to the United States or South Korea, it “highlights the destabilizing impact” of North Korea’s illegal weapons program.
Evidence of North Korea’s hypersonic missile program first emerged publicly last January, when the country revealed a number of new weapons it says it is developing, including multi-warhead nuclear missiles and a nuclear submarine. Then in September, the North conducted the first test of the so-called Hwaseong-8 hypersonic missile. The next month’s munitions show also featured what appeared to be a hypersonic missile with a detachable glide warhead.
All of the recent tests are in violation of numerous UN Security Council resolutions banning North Korea from developing or testing ballistic missiles or nuclear devices.
North Korea’s actions on Tuesday took place at a meeting of the Security Council at UN Headquarters in New York. to discuss the country’s latest ballistic missile test, which officials from the US, Japan, France, the UK and two other countries called “a threat to international peace and security.”
“Each missile launch serves not only to enhance the DPRK’s own capabilities, but also to expand the range of weapons available for export to its illegal customers and arms dealers around the world,” the envoys said in a joint statement, which uses an acronym for the North’s official name, Korean People’s -Democratic Republic. “North Korea is making these military investments at the expense of the welfare of the North Korean people.”
The envoys called on the Council to “unanimously oppose the ongoing destabilizing and illegal activities of the DPRK” and called on all UN member states to “implement their sanctions obligations in accordance with Security Council resolutions.”
Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida told reporters Tuesday morning, “It is extremely unfortunate that North Korea launched a missile in this situation.”
North Korea has not tested any long-range missiles that could directly threaten the continental United States since it conducted three ICBM tests in 2017. Trump collapsed in 2019 as the country resumed testing mostly short-range missiles, including those launched from trains that rolled out of tunnels.
Significance of North Korea’s missile tests
Increase in activity. North Korea has conducted several missile tests in recent months, hinting at an increasingly defiant attitude towards countries opposed to its growing military arsenal. Here’s what you need to know:
The tests showed the North is developing more sophisticated ways to deliver nuclear and other warheads to bases in South Korea, Japan and America, military analysts say. Some of the missiles it has tested since 2019 were solid-fueled and maneuvered in the air, defense analysts said, making them difficult to intercept.
After testing ICBMs in 2017, Mr. Kim said his country had the capability to launch a nuclear strike on the continental United States. He then met with Mr. Trump three times between 2018 and 2019 to push the United States to ease sanctions imposed under Security Council resolutions.
Kim and Trump’s diplomacy collapsed without an agreement to end the North’s nuclear program or lift international sanctions.
During the five-day meeting of the Workers’ Party, which ended on December 31 in Pyongyang, the capital of North Korea, Mr. Kim said conditions in his country require “strengthening the national defense capability” without delay.
But he also said his country should focus on addressing chronic food shortages, a problem he inherited from his father and predecessor, Kim Jong Il, who died 10 years ago, and which the North has yet to solve. .
North Korea remains extremely wary of any contact with the outside world during the coronavirus pandemic and has not reported cases of the virus in the country, which is questioned by outside experts.
Rick Gladstone provided a report from New York, and Motoko Rich from Tokyo.