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North Korea claims new hypersonic missile launch under watch of Kim Jong-un

Image source, EPA

North Korea says it has conducted another hypersonic missile test, under the watch of its leader Kim Jong-un.

State news agency KCNA said the missile fired on Tuesday had “precisely hit” a target some 1,000km (621 miles) away.

It marks North Korea’s third reported test of a hypersonic missile, which can avoid detection for longer than ballistic missiles.

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Two of the tests have happened within a week, after Mr Kim vowed in a New Year speech to bolster Pyongyang’s defences.

South Korea and Japan both detected Tuesday’s launch, saying a missile had been fired from North Korea towards the sea.

KCNA news agency later said it was a hypersonic missile, which it described as having “superior manoeuvrability”.

North Korea previously said it had successfully conducted a hypersonic missile test on 5 January. The move drew condemnation from countries including the US, UK and France, who urged Pyongyang to stop its “destabilising actions”.

Hypersonic weapons usually fly towards targets at lower altitudes than ballistic missiles and can achieve more than five times the speed of sound – or about 6,200km/h (3,850mph).

North Korea joins a small number of countries, including the United States and China, in attempting to develop hypersonic missiles.

Diagram showing arc of ICBM v hypersonic

Photos shared by state media showed Mr Kim watching the test alongside officials. It marked the first time since March 2020 he had officially attended a missile launch, according to reports.

“While Kim probably unofficially attended other tests in the interim, this appearance and its Page One feature on [North Korean newspaper] Rodong Sinmun is important,” Chad O’Carroll, chief executive of the Korea Risk Group which monitors North Korea, told Reuters news agency.

“It means Kim is not concerned about being personally associated [with] tests of major new tech. And doesn’t care how the US sees this.”

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