Pyongyang claims successful test launch of solid propellant hypersonic ballistic missile

By Park Sae-jin Posted : January 15, 2024, 10:52 Updated : January 15, 2024, 10:52

SEOUL -- North Korea has claimed that a solid propellant hypersonic ballistic missile, launched from a facility near Pyongyang on January 14, successfully achieved its target goal of verifying the maneuverability of the ultra-fast rocket.

An "intermediate-range solid-fuel ballistic missile" (IRBM) is a new type of intermediate-range missile that covers distances from 1,000 to 5,000 kilometers (3,106 miles). The missile, which uses solid fuel, is known for quicker launch times and greater mobility compared to intercontinental ballistic missiles that use liquid-type fuels. Capable of traveling at hypersonic speeds of Mach 5 and above, the IRBM presents a significant challenge for conventional missile-intercepting countermeasures due to its super-fast speeds and hard-to-predict flight trajectory.

Pyongyang's state-operated Korean Central News Agency said on January 15 that the IRBM launched on the previous day successfully fulfilled its goal of "verifying the gliding and maneuvering characteristics of intermediate-range hypersonic maneuverable controlled warhead and the reliability of newly developed multi-stage high-thrust solid-fuel engines."

The hypersonic missile was first unveiled on January 5, 2022, when Pyongyang fired a ballistic missile into the East Sea. North Korea later claimed that an IRBM successfully flew some 7,000 kilometers at a maximum speed of Mach 5 before landing in the East Sea.

The development of the IRBM is part of North Korea's plan to beef up its military capabilities to prevent invasion by its enemy countries. The consistent march to strengthen Pyongyang had accelerated the military tension between the two Koreas. North Korea mainly criticized Washington and Seoul for conducting joint military drills.

Missiles including ballistic missiles and cruise missiles were fired 41 times in 2022 and 25 times in 2023. After two failed attempts, North Korea managed to put a military spy satellite into orbit in November 2023.

Pyongyang also fired some 200 artillery shots into the West Sea, also known as the Yellow Sea. The shells landed just north of the Northern Limit Line (NLL), drawn initially by the United Nations Command (UNC) in 1953 during the armistice negotiations that brought a ceasefire to the Korean War (1950~1953). For decades, Pyongyang has continuously challenged the NLL's legitimacy, claiming a different maritime boundary.

However, unlike its stance that formerly stood strong against the U.S. and its allies, North Korea stressed in the statement that the test launch of the hypersonic missile was not aimed at escalating military tension between the two Koreas. "The test-fire never affected the security of any neighboring country and had nothing to do with the regional situation," KCNA said, taking a step back from its stern stance towards the United States, South Korea, and their allies.
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