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

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un speaks during the 8th KPA Military Teachers Conference on April 25 at the Culture House in Pyongyang, North Korea in this undated photo released December 7, 2021. KCNA via Reuters

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  • The launch was revealed on Tuesday by Japan, South Korea
  • Kim is officially auditioning for the first time since March 2020
  • The United States and the European Union condemn the tests as a threat to peace
  • The tests come after Kim pledged to beef up the military

SEOUL (Reuters) – North Korean leader Kim Jong Un called for strengthening the country’s strategic military forces while observing the test of a hypersonic missile, state media said on Wednesday. years.

Authorities in South Korea and Japan on Tuesday spotted the suspected launch, which drew condemnation from authorities around the world, and raised the United Nations Secretary-General’s expression of concern. Read more

The second test of a “hypersonic missile” in less than a week confirmed Kim’s New Year pledge to bolster the military with the latest technology at a time when talks with South Korea and the United States have stalled.

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After witnessing the test, Kim urged the military scientists to “further accelerate efforts to steadily build up the country’s strategic military strength in quality and quantity, and continue to modernize the army,” the Korean Central News Agency reported.

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

“His presence here would suggest a special interest in this program,” Ankit Panda, a senior fellow at the US-based Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, wrote on Twitter.

In contrast to some other recent auditions, ruling party newspaper Rodong Sinmun published photos of Kim attending the launch party on its front page.

“While Kim may have unofficially attended other tests in the meantime, this appearance and front-page advantage over Rodong Sinmun are significant,” said Chad O’Carroll, chief executive of Korea Risk Group, which monitors North Korea. “This means that Kim doesn’t care about being personally involved in major new technology tests. He doesn’t care how the United States sees it.”

UN Security Council resolutions ban all ballistic missile and nuclear testing of North Korea and have imposed sanctions on the programmes.

Talks aimed at persuading North Korea to surrender or reduce 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 halt “hostile policies” such as sanctions or military exercises.

The US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, Victoria Nuland, described the missile launches as dangerous and destabilizing.

“It is clearly taking us in the wrong direction,” she said at a regular news conference in Washington on Tuesday. “You know, the United States has been saying since this administration came that we’re open to dialogue with North Korea, that we’re open to talking about coronavirus and humanitarian support, and instead they’re firing missiles.”

The European Union on Tuesday condemned North Korea’s latest missile launch as a “threat to international peace and security” and called on Pyongyang to resume diplomacy.

“Excellent maneuverability”

Despite its name, analysts say the main advantage of hypersonic weapons is not speed — which can sometimes match or exceed conventional ballistic missile warheads — but their maneuverability, which makes them a serious threat to missile defense systems.

Analysts said images released by state media appeared to show the same type of missile and warhead that was first tested last week.

“The firing test was aimed at the final verification of the comprehensive technical specifications of the hypersonic weapon system,” the Korean Central News Agency reported.

Launched from the booster missile, the hypersonic glide vehicle performed a 600 km (375 mile) ‘glide jump’ flight and then a 240 km ‘helix maneuver’ before hitting a target at sea 1,000 km away, the report said.

South Korean officials questioned the missile’s capabilities after the first test last week, saying it did not appear to show the alleged range and maneuverability in a state media report, and that it included a maneuverable warhead rather than an actual glide vehicle.

However, South Korea said on Tuesday that a second test appeared to show improved performance, with the missile reaching top speeds of 10 times the speed of sound (12,348 km/h/7,673 mph), although they did not comment on this. . maneuverability.

“The supersonic glide vehicle’s remarkable maneuverability has been verified by the final firing test,” the Korean Central News Agency said.

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(Hyunhyun Shin and Josh Smith report). Additional reporting by David Bronstrom in Washington. Editing by Jonathan Otis and Richard Boleyn

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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