N.Korea says it tested solid-fuel ballistic missile with hypersonic weapon

North Korea said Monday it had successfully test-fired a new ballistic missile tipped with a hypersonic maneuverable warhead, the latest breakthrough in its pursuit of advanced weaponry to threaten South Korean and US targets, News.Az reports citing AFP. 

The launch, Pyongyang's first known weapons test this year and its first ever test of a solid-fuel hypersonic intermediate-range ballistic missile (IRBM), was detected by Seoul's military Sunday afternoon.

A short report in the official Korean Central News Agency said that the solid-fuel IRMB was "loaded with a hypersonic maneuverable controlled warhead."

The test was meant to verify "the gliding and maneuvering characteristics" of the warhead and the "reliability of newly developed multi-stage high-thrust solid-fuel engines," KCNA said.

KCNA said that Sunday's launch "never affected the security of any neighbouring country and had nothing to do with the regional situation."

But it came just days after Pyongyang staged live-fire exercises near the country's tense maritime border with South Korea, which prompted counter-exercises and evacuation orders for some South Korean border islands.

It also comes after Kim earlier this week branded Seoul his "principal enemy" and warned he would not hesitate to annihilate South Korea, as he toured major weapons factories.

Solid-fuel missiles are easier to hide and quicker to fire, and hypersonic missiles typically allow the user to manoeuvre them in flight to better hit targets. Both technologies have long been on Kim's laundry list of weapons technology.

"North Korea appears to be pursuing the development of hypersonic missiles and IRBMs using solid fuel rocket boosters at the same time," said Chang Young-keun, a missile expert at the Korea Research Institute for National Strategy.

"Mid- to long-range hypersonic missiles will be particularly useful in striking Guam while evading the US missile defense system," he added.

North Korea's last missile test was of a Hwasong-18 solid-fuel intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) on December 18.

News.Az 

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