What North Korea’s hypersonic missile test really means to Kim, the US and allies in Asia

North Korea’s state-run media has announced the test of a maneuverable hypersonic missile system celebrated by the government of Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un is the latest in a series of defense breakthroughs.

And although the secretive, militarized state is far from the only country to seek out such technology, experts say the deployment of such a weapon gives North Korea an edge when it comes to defenses imposed by the United States and allies. When it comes to controlling. As in Japan and South Korea, while at the same time leading Kim to victory on the home front during a time of acknowledged hardship for his country.

News of the launch first came on Tuesday when Japanese and South Korean forces separately announced they had detected a possible North Korean missile launch that had flown hundreds of miles east before falling into the sea.

The test was confirmed on Wednesday after official North Korean news outlets such as the Korean Central News Agency announced that the country’s Academy of Defense Sciences had “tested a hypersonic missile” a day before the ruling Korean Workers’ Party Central Committee munitions observation. industry.

“Continuous successes in test launches in the hypersonic missile field have strategic importance that they advance a task at the 8th Party Congress to modernize the State’s Strategic Armed Forces and help accomplish the most important of the top five main tasks.” The priority tasks for the strategic arms sector in the Five Year Plan,” KCNA reported.

This level of importance of the weapon to Kim’s military plans, as well as the presence of the model on display at an October defense exhibition attended by the ruler himself, was noted by Jeffrey Lewis, a member of the East Asia Nonproliferation Program. Acts as Director. at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies.

He described the missile in question as “a maneuverable warhead, similar to the Pershing II that the US deployed to Europe in the 1980s.”

“It’s being called a ‘hypersonic’ warhead, which is true but misleading because all long-range missiles are hypersonic,” he said. newsweek,

What is different about a maneuverable warhead is that it allows the operator to control the path of the weapon mid-flight, making it difficult to intercept at speeds greater than five times the speed of sound.

“A maneuver maneuver improves North Korea’s ability to defeat the US and allied missile defense,” Lewis said.

An image published by official North Korean media on January 6 local time shows the launch of a ballistic missile on the same day that a test of a weapon using a hypersonic gliding warhead was announced.
Rodong Sinmun

KCNA reported that Tuesday’s launch “verified the flight control and stability of the missile in the active-flight phase and assessed the performance of the new lateral movement technology applied to the detached hypersonic gliding warhead.”

“After separation after launch, the missile covered 120 km [about 76 miles] Lateral movement in the flight distance of the hypersonic gliding warhead from the initial launch azimuth to the target azimuth and hits the target exactly 700 km [about 435 miles] away,” wrote KCNA.

The demonstrations were also said to prove “the reliability of the fuel ampoule system in winter weather conditions” as well as “the control and stability of the hypersonic gliding warhead, which combines multi-stage gliding jump flight and strong lateral movement.” Was.”

While the US pioneered boost-glide ballistic missile technology in the 1980s and continues to work in such technology today, it was Russia that pioneered such technology during a 2018 theatrical presentation by President Vladimir Putin. Unveiled a weapon that declared the vehicle now known as Invincible. For all existing defense systems.

Lewis pointed out that other countries in the region, such as China, South Korea and Japan, “have or are developing” maneuvers compared to those being tested by North Korea, but the capabilities are relatively rare among countries in the world.

Another prominent analyst Ankit Panda, who serves as a senior fellow in the nuclear policy program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said that “demonstration of such capability puts the North Koreans in a small club – Even if the potential is not the highest. Sophisticated or perfected in its class.”

On the military front, Panda said Kim’s focus on honing hypersonic capabilities is “probably because he sees these weapons as good at combating missile defense,” though without their own weaknesses.

“According to the North Koreans, this newly tested missile demonstrated both vertical and lateral maneuvers in flight and thus can be challenging to track and defend, but not impossible,” Panda said. “These weapons are not invincible, superweapons, but a class of missiles that are growing in popularity around the world – with the superpowers Russia, China and the United States really leading the charge.”

“Under Kim,” Panda said, “there has been a great emphasis not only on military self-reliance but on defense scientific excellence.”

And at home, there was another potential inspiration for such exhibitions that regularly capture the world’s attention.

“At a time when Kim has been open about the economic difficulties within North Korea, a display like this could go a long way to boosting morale – if not with ordinary North Koreans, then at least the military. And with the core of the workers.’ party,” Panda said.

Soo Mi Terry, director of the Hyundai Motor-Korea Foundation Center for Korean and Public Policy at The Wilson Center, also noted that, “Due to the deteriorating economic situation in North Korea, Kim used more provocations such as missile tests in an attempt can. get more help from the outside world.”

“But we must not panic or over-react to another missile test,” Terry said in a statement. newsweek, “Kim is running the North’s tried-and-true playbook of using provocation to increase its international leverage and ability to make more concessions from the United States.”

Terry also noted that Tuesday’s test was only the latest in a long line of recent demonstrations that include a new surface-to-air defense missile system, a long-range cruise missile, a train-based ballistic missile and a new submarine- Launch ballistics were involved. missiles, another development that places North Korea in the ranks of a select few countries recently joined by rival South Korea.

She said the developments were all part of Kim’s announced plan “to create a nuclear triad that can survive the first attack and develop weapons that can evade existing missile defense systems,” and “we expect more to come.” should do.”

north, korea, missile, launch, january, 2022, japan
Pedestrians display a map after North Korea fired what appeared to be a ballistic missile at sea off its east coast, according to South Korea and Japan, during a news broadcast in Tokyo’s Akihabara district on January 5. walking on a screen. North Korea’s occasional missile launches regularly attract international attention, and in particular the attention of nearby US allies South Korea and Japan.
Nogi Kazuhiro/AFP/Getty Images

And while Kim resumed missile launches in May 2019 amid the breakdown of nuclear disarmament-for-peace talks with the US, ending a nearly year-and-a-half-long pause, she has yet to receive nuclear weapons and long-range missiles. But to return. testing. And Kim has not ruled out talks with Washington, even as he seeks to end its “hostile policy” toward Pyongyang before President Joe Biden’s administration seeks to establish meaningful contacts. previously subject to strict international sanctions.

But little progress has been made on this front. Despite this, South Korean President Moon Jae-in has gone ahead with an effort to end the war that broke out between the two neighbors at the start of the Cold War in the 1950s.

As Moon approaches his final week in office with elections due in March, which could well see a more conservative turnaround for South Korea, his administration is likely to respond to calls by the US for talks with North Korea. had joined the appeal of what has gone so far as to be widespread. Ignored.

While the deputy director of the Central Committee of the Korean Workers’ Party, Kim Yo Jong, who is also Kim Jong Un’s sister, initially said she was “interested” in Moon’s offer to declare lasting peace on the Korean peninsula, Something else has emerged from Pyongyang as the moon moved ahead with the initiative amid discussions with the US and China.

Kim Jong Un’s most recent comments, including his late December appearance at the fourth plenary meeting of the Korean Workers’ Party’s 8th Central Committee, focused more on regular references to strengthening national defense as well as strengthening national development. Emphasized.

Speaking at the plenary meeting, Kim Jong Un remarked how “the tendency of the Korean peninsula’s military environment and the international situation to destabilize day by day demands that the defense capability of the state be more powerfully without a be carried forward with a delay of the moment,” according to KCNA.

He called on his defense to advance the development of new, modern weapons, as well as boosting North Korea’s already multi-million-strong militia.

But Kim Jong Un also linked North Korea’s upcoming military moves to the trajectory of the country’s relations with South Korea and others.

“The findings set out a range of theoretical issues and strategic orientation,” the KCNA report said, “all of which need to be maintained by the areas of North-South relations and external affairs to deal with the rapidly changing international political situation.” and the surrounding circumstances.”

DPRK, Kim, Jong, Un, January, 2022
North Korea’s Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un speaks at the 4th plenary meeting of the 8th Central Committee of the Korean Workers’ Party, held at the Party Central Committee office building from December 27-31, 2021 in Pyongyang. The official KCNA outlet said that the meeting “will be recorded as a landmark in the history of the Juche Revolution, which marked the beginning of the grand march of all peoples to glorify the optimistic New Year 2022 as a great turning point of the developing world.” Declared revolution under the invincible guidance and advanced strategic policies of the great party that will dynamically propel the overall development of our own-style socialist construction.”
Korean Central News Agency