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North Korea tests engine for new hypersonic missile
North Korea tests engine for new hypersonic missile
by Thomas Maresca
Washington DC (UPI) Mar 20, 2024

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un oversaw the test of a solid-fuel engine for a new intermediate-range hypersonic missile, state media reported Wednesday, one day after observing the launch of short-range ballistic missiles.

The test was conducted at the Sohae Satellite Launching Facility on the country's west coast Tuesday, state-run Korean Central News Agency said.

"The military strategic value of this weapon system is appreciated as important as ICBM from the security environment of our state and the operational demand of the People's Army and enemies know better about it," Kim said, according to KCNA.

The report added that a timetable for completing the development of the new weapons system was "set through the great success in the important test."

In January, Pyongyang said it test-fired a new solid-fuel intermediate-range missile with a hypersonic warhead, which could place U.S. military installations in Guam -- around 2,100 miles away -- within reach. Hypersonic weapons travel at least five times the speed of sound and are designed to be maneuverable, making them difficult to intercept.

A hypersonic missile was among the laundry list of weapons to be developed that Kim Jong Un laid out at a party congress in January 2021, alongside nuclear-powered submarines, submarine-launched intercontinental ballistic missiles, "ultramodern tactical nuclear weapons" and military satellites.

Kim "expressed great satisfaction over the fact that the development projects have been successfully completed in the strategic weapon sector during the period of the five-year plan," Wednesday's KCNA report said.

The engine test came one day after Kim oversaw firing drills of the North's KN-25 super-large multiple rocket launcher system. Seoul and Washington categorize the system's nuclear-capable 600mm artillery as a short-range ballistic missile.

Tensions on the Korean Peninsula remain at their highest in years, as Pyongyang has kept up a steady stream of threats, weapons tests and military exercises. In January, Kim declared South Korea the "most harmful and primary enemy of our country" and said the North had the "legality to attack and destroy at any time."

The United States and South Korea have increased their military cooperation in response to the North's s provocations, with expanded drills and the deployment of U.S. assets to the Peninsula. The allies completed their annual Freedom Shield springtime joint military exercise last week, which Pyongyang condemned as preparation for an invasion.

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