North Korea It said today that it had tested its first hypersonic missile, a modern technology that it probably has in its initial phase, but that shows its commitment to adding weighty deterrent assets given the growing proliferation in the region and the stagnation of the dialogue.
The missile launch, dubbed Hwasong-8, took place on Tuesday from Toyang-ri, Chagang province (north), according to the state agency KCNA today.
The test was detected yesterday by Seoul, Washington and Tokyo, although neither party shared practically data about the missile while they assured that they continued analyzing the test.
That same day, military sources leaked to the South Korean media that the projectile traveled about 200 kilometers without exceeding 60 of apogee, an unusual flight pattern that led some to venture that it could be hypersonic technology, with which the leader Kim Jong- one assured in January that Pyongyang was already working.
Around this time, Kim spoke of his scientists having completed the research phase to develop “hypersonic heads” for “new types of ballistic missiles.”
Although KCNA only published today a photo of the Hwasong-8 in the ignition phase, several analysts believe that it would be a mid-range ballistic missile that carries a new type of head, which in this case would be a hypersonic vehicle, capable of maneuvering and fly at enormous speeds.
Despite the fact that it is a technology that for the most part continues to be developed and that very few countries – it is believed that only Russia and China – are fully operational, missiles or hypersonic vehicles technically break at least five times the sound barrier in flight, that is to say, they exceed 6,177 kilometers per hour.
Although they do not have the speed and range of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), their speed, greater than that of a conventional cruise missile, and the fact that they can fly low, trace non-parabolic trajectories and maneuver makes them a much more accurate tactical weapon and almost impossible to intercept.
EARLY DEVELOPMENT PHASE
The South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) was quick to say today, in any case, that this Pyongyang technology is “in an early stage of development”, that it will take “a considerable period of time” until its deployment and that the assets Seoul and Washington are able to “detect and intercept them.”
In any case, the North Korean propaganda assured that the test showed “that all the technical specifications met the design requirements”, and that the proper functioning of the missile fuel ampoule “used for the first time” could also be determined.
Pak Jong-chon, the North Korean chief of staff and a member of the politburo presidium, oversaw the launch and defended the importance of widespread use of fuel ampoules, according to KCNA. Kim Jong-un, on the other hand, was not present, a possible indication that these are the first tests of these missiles.
Adopting this blister system for its liquid-fueled missiles would allow Pyongyang much easier and faster loading for these types of projectiles.
Whatever the degree of modernization of the Hwasong-8, Pyongyang seems determined to continue improving and strengthening its arsenal, something that would give it more room for negotiation in the hypothetical case that it returns to dialogue.
In fact, last weekend he remotely pointed to that possibility in a message from the leader’s sister, Kim Yo-jong, to Seoul.
But in the absence of an inter-Korean rapprochement beginning to materialize or the regime responding to insistent Washington proposals to revive the dialogue on denuclearization, stalled since 2019, the arms escalation continues its course on the Korean peninsula.
Tuesday’s test was preceded by two more conducted two weeks ago by North Korea, to which the South responded by testing its first submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) and announcing several new weight developments.
Added to this is information at the end of August from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) warning that Pyongyang reactivated facilities capable of producing fuel that can be used in nuclear bombs this year.