Wednesday's DPRK Launch Was Second Test of Hwasong-8 Hypersonic Missile, Ruling Workers Party Says

© AP Photo / Brittany E.N. MurphyIn this Feb. 23, 2021, file photo released by the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command, an unarmed Minuteman 3 intercontinental ballistic missile launches during an operation test at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif.
In this Feb. 23, 2021, file photo released by the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command, an unarmed Minuteman 3 intercontinental ballistic missile launches during an operation test at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. - Sputnik International, 1920, 05.01.2022
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A Wednesday missile launch into the Sea of Japan by the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) was of a hypersonic weapon, state media reported Thursday morning.
According to Rodong Sinmun, the official paper of the ruling Workers Party of Korea, the Wednesday test accelerated the task of "modernizing the national strategic force."
The paper says the test verified the ability of the fuel ampoule system to operate "under winter weather conditions" and demonstrated an increased ability to stabilize and control the hypersonic glide vehicle, "which combined a multi-stage gliding jump flight and a strong lateral movement." The glide vehicle is boosted by a rocket engine during the initial stage of a hypersonic weapon's launch before detaching and gliding toward its target, adopting an unpredictable flight path to avoid interception.
"In the test launch, the [Academy of Defense Science] reconfirmed the flight control and stability of the missile in the active-flight stage and assessed the performance of the new lateral movement technique applied to the detached hypersonic gliding warhead," the Sinmun said.
"Having detached after its launch, the missile made a 120 km lateral movement in the flight distance of the hypersonic gliding warhead from the initial launch azimuth to the target azimuth and precisely hit the target 700 km away," it added.
The Wednesday launch was the DPRK's second test of a hypersonic weapon. The first was held in September, timed to coincide with the socialist nation's envoy to the United Nations taking the podium at the General Assembly in New York to speak about the DPRK's right to self-defense but willingness to talk peace, which has eluded the peninsula for 72 years. The weapon is named Hwasong-8.
"The possible outbreak of a new war on the Korean Peninsula is contained not because of the US' mercy on the DPRK," Ambassador Kim Sung said. "It is because our state is a growing reliable deterrent that can control the hostile forces in the attempts of a military invasion."
The DPRK has maintained a unilateral ban on long-range ballistic missile tests since demonstrating it has a working intercontinental ballistic missile in 2018. However, it has tested a variety of shorter-range weapons that don't violate United Nations resolutions. Many are designed to evade South Korean air defenses in various ways, whether by depressed trajectories or, in the case of the Hwasong-8, simply being too fast and unpredictable for them to shoot down. However, it has also tested air defense missiles, too.
The US has criticized the DPRK and China for its hypersonic weapons tests, saying "the pursuit of those capabilities increases tensions in the region." However, just days after US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin made those remarks, the South Korean Defense Ministry’s Agency for Defense Development revealed a model for its own land-launched hypersonic missile, dubbed Hycore, and received no similar reproach from its ally in Washington.
The DPRK has been at war with South Korea and the US since 1950, when the US orchestrated a UN intervention in a civil war in Korea that the South was badly losing. A ceasefire ended the war in 1953 after more than 2 million people had been killed, but no permanent peace followed, and a demilitarized zone has separated the two countries since. The US claims the DPRK's missile and nuclear weapons are a threat to the region, but Pyongyang says it only has the weapons to ensure its security until a peace treaty is signed and the 28,500 US troops in South Korea are withdrawn.
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