Wed. Jun 19th, 2024
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    North Korea announced on Monday that it had successfully tested a new solid-fuel hypersonic missile, which it claimed was a “strategic weapon” capable of evading enemy defenses and hitting targets across the Pacific.

    The test, which took place on Sunday, was the second of its kind in less than four months, and came a day before the country’s foreign minister, Ri Son-gwon, departed for Moscow to hold talks with his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov.

    According to the North’s official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), the missile, named Hwasong-9, was launched from a mobile launcher and flew 700 kilometers (435 miles) before hitting a target in the East Sea. The report said the missile had a “hypersonic gliding warhead” that detached from the rocket booster and maneuvered laterally at high speed and low altitude.

    KCNA said the test confirmed the missile’s “navigational control and stability” and its ability to operate in winter conditions. It also said the missile used a new technology of missile fuel ampoule, which allows the missile to be pre-fueled and stored in a canister for rapid launch.

    The test was hailed by the North’s leader, Kim Jong-un, who said the missile was one of the “five most important” new weapons systems laid out in the country’s five-year military development plan. He also said the missile was a “powerful deterrent” that would “reliably safeguard the security and peace of the country and the region from the US hostile forces’ nuclear threat”.

    Analysts said the test showed the North’s progress in developing hypersonic weapons, which are designed to fly faster than five times the speed of sound and evade missile defense systems. They also said the test was a signal to the US and its allies that the North was not willing to give up its nuclear and missile programs, despite the stalled diplomatic talks and the economic hardships caused by the pandemic and the sanctions.

    “North Korea is demonstrating that it has a diverse and growing arsenal of missiles that can threaten not only South Korea and Japan, but also US bases and territories in the Pacific,” said Ankit Panda, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. “The test also shows that North Korea is not interested in resuming dialogue with the US on denuclearization, unless the US offers significant concessions.”

    Panda said the test also coincided with the North’s diplomatic outreach to Russia, which is one of the few countries that maintains friendly ties with Pyongyang. He said the North might seek to gain Russia’s support and cooperation on various issues, such as easing the sanctions, providing humanitarian aid, and enhancing security cooperation.

    “North Korea is trying to balance its relations with China and Russia, and to diversify its diplomatic options,” Panda said. “It is also trying to show that it is not isolated or desperate, and that it has other partners besides the US.”

    The test was condemned by the US, South Korea, and Japan, which called it a violation of the UN Security Council resolutions and a threat to regional and international peace and stability. The US State Department said it was “consulting closely” with its allies and partners on the appropriate response, and urged the North to “engage in sustained and substantive dialogue” to achieve complete denuclearization.

    The test also came amid the ongoing tensions between the US and China over Taiwan, which the North has expressed its support for Beijing’s position. The North has also criticized the US for its military exercises and arms sales to Taiwan, and accused it of creating a “dangerous situation” in the region.

    The test was the latest in a series of weapons tests by the North this year, which included a new type of cruise missile, a new train-launched ballistic missile system, and a solid-fuel intercontinental ballistic missile. The North has also unveiled several other new weapons, such as a submarine-launched ballistic missile, a tactical guided missile, and a multiple rocket launcher.

    The North has said that it will continue to develop and test new weapons, as part of its efforts to strengthen its self-defense capabilities and deter the US “hostile policy”. It has also said that it will not return to the dialogue table, unless the US drops its “hostile policy” and lifts the sanctions.

    The US has said that it remains open to dialogue with the North, and that it is seeking a “practical and calibrated approach” to address the nuclear issue. However, it has also said that it will not offer any incentives or rewards to the North, and that it will continue to enforce the sanctions and pressure the North to denuclearize.

    The US and the North have not held any official talks since the collapse of the summit between Kim and former US President Donald Trump in Hanoi in February 2019, which ended without a deal on the North’s denuclearization and the US’s sanctions relief. The two sides have also not exchanged any high-level contacts since President Joe Biden took office in January 2020.


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