N Korea confirms new hypersonic missile test as minister heads to Russia

Pyongyang claimed that its test was safe for neighbors and unrelated to regional security.
By Lee Jeong-Ho for RFA
2024.01.14
Seoul, South Korea
N Korea confirms new hypersonic missile test as minister heads to Russia Ballistic missile, said to be solid-fuel and hypersonic, launches during a test at an unspecified location in North Korea in this picture released by the Korean Central News Agency on Jan. 14, 2024.
KCNA via Reuters

North Korea has confirmed testing a hypersonic ballistic missile with a new type of engine as its foreign minister embarked on a visit to Russia amid accusations that both nations are engaged in arms trading. 

“On the afternoon of Jan. 14, the Missile General Bureau of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea conducted a test launch of an intermediate-range, solid-fuelled ballistic missile [IRBM], equipped with a hypersonic gliding maneuvering warhead,” North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency said Monday, referring to the nation’s formal name. 

“The test launch was successful,” KCNA added, noting that it was aimed at compiling data for strengthening the “glide and maneuver capabilities,” as well as the “newly engineered multi-stage, high-output solid fuel engines.”

The state media also claimed that the test launch had no impact on the safety of neighboring countries, stressing that it was conducted independently of the regional security situation. However, the United Nations bans North Korea from launching any ballistic rockets, even if it claims that these launches have no impact on other nations.

The North’s missile test comes as South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff detected North Korea launching what appeared to be an IRBM near Pyongyang, off its eastern coast, at around 2:55 p.m. Sunday. The North Korean missile flew approximately 1000 kilometers (621 miles) before landing off its eastern coast, the JCS said.

Pyongyang had already announced that it had developed a new high-output solid fuel engine for its new IRBM in November. The North’s IRBM, including its Musudan missiles, can reach Guam, where U.S. strategic assets, including B-52 strategic bombers, are located. In addition, solid-fuel ballistic missiles require less time for fueling, posing a challenge for the allies to detect the launch. 

In a separate KCNA report on Monday, North Korea also issued a direct threat to South Korea, calling the Yoon Suk Yeol administration a “reckless,” “puppet gangster regime.” 

“If you keep trying to ignite wet wood, eventually it will catch fire. Even more so, in the case of the most hostile of nations, a single spark can act as a catalyst for a massive physical confrontation,” the KCNA said, referring to the inter-Korean relations.

Pyongyang on Monday has also escalated threats on the diplomatic front. 

In another KCNA report, it said its foreign minister Choe Son Hui left Pyongyang for Russia Sunday, without elaborating further. 

But apparently, Choe was invited by her Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov and expected to stay in Russia from Jan. 15 to 17, according to a Sunday KCNA report.

Choe’s visit to Russia came amid accusations that Pyongyang and Moscow are engaged in arms trading, with Ukraine alleging that North Korean missiles have been used in Russia’s aggression against Ukraine – a claim that both Pyongyang and Moscow have denied. 

According to South Korea’s National Intelligence Agency briefings in November, however, Moscow has likely offered Pyongyang technological advice for its satellite launch, as it has received more than 1 million artillery shells from North Korea since early August. 

Edited by Taejun Kang and Mike Firn.

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