Ahn Young-joon Agence France-Presse North Korea fired a ballistic missile on Sunday, the South Korean military said, days after artillery drills with live ammunition organized by Pyongyang near the maritime border with South Korea.
France Media Agency in Seoul
North Korea announced on Monday that it had successfully fired a new type of ballistic missile equipped with a maneuverable hypersonic warhead, a new technological advance in weapons technology.
This firing, the first of an intermediate-range hypersonic ballistic missile by Pyongyang, was detected by the South Korean military on Sunday afternoon.
This solid-fuel missile was “loaded with a hypersonic and maneuverable warhead,” according to North Korean state news agency KCNA.
The test was intended to “verify the gliding and maneuverability capabilities” as well as “the reliability of the newly developed high-thrust, multi-stage solid fuel engine,” KCNA explained.
The agency said the launch, the first reported by Pyongyang since the start of the year, “has never affected the security of any neighboring country and has nothing to do with the regional situation.”
This essay comes against a backdrop of concerns surrounding a hardening of Pyongyang's position.
Last week, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un described South Korea as the country's “main enemy,” adding that he would not hesitate to “annihilate” it.
South Korea's Defense Ministry condemned the launch and said it would result in a “crushing response” if “directly provocative” from Pyongyang.
“A clear provocation”
“This behavior by North Korea is a clear provocation in violation of United Nations Security Council resolutions that prohibit the use of ballistic missile technology. We issue a stern warning and urge North Korea to stop immediately,” he also said in a statement.
The European Union (EU) also condemned this launch, in a statement from the office of its head of diplomacy, Josep Borrell.
“The EU calls on North Korea to stop any illegal actions that undermine international peace and security in its region and beyond,” said a statement, which assured that “the EU is ready to work with all partners to promote a diplomatic process aimed at the complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.”
Solid fuel missiles are easier to hide and faster to launch, while hypersonic missiles can generally be maneuvered in flight to better hit their target.
These two technologies have long been on the list of weapons technologies that Mr. Kim wants to possess.
“North Korea appears to be simultaneously pursuing the development of hypersonic missiles and intermediate-range ballistic missiles that use solid-fuel propellants,” said Chang Young-keun, a missile expert at the Institute Korean National Strategy Research Institute.
“Mid- or long-range hypersonic missiles will be particularly useful in striking Guam while evading the American missile defense system,” he added, referring to the Pacific island where the United States hosts a major base. military.
In mid-December, the North Korean leader oversaw the sending of a Hwasong-18, a solid-fuel intercontinental ballistic missile, fired into the Sea of Japan, an area also known as the East Sea.
KCNA published a photo of the missile launch on Monday to accompany the news, without mentioning Mr. Kim's presence on the occasion.
Ankit Panda, an analyst based in the United States, told the specialist site NK News that the image suggested that the missile had a “maneuverable reentry vehicle”, that is to say, whose warhead is capable of tracking ground targets.
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More precise weapons
Pyongyang is trying to develop weapons that are more precise and capable of “better penetrating missile defenses,” he added.
Sunday's firing comes after North Korea carried out artillery exercises in early January with live ammunition on its western coast, near South Korean islands where the population was called to take shelter.
Relations between the two Koreas are currently at their lowest point in decades.
In late December, Mr. Kim ordered the acceleration of military preparations for a “war” that could “be unleashed at any time.” He denounced a “persistent and uncontrollable crisis situation”, according to him triggered by Seoul and Washington with their joint military exercises in the region.
Pyongyang succeeded last year in putting a spy satellite into orbit, after having received, according to South Korea, Russian technological aid in exchange for deliveries of weapons for Moscow's war in Ukraine.
Russia and North Korea, long-time allies, have shown a rapprochement since the North Korean leader's trip to the Russian Far East in September 2023 to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin.< /p>
Last year, North Korea enshrined its status as a nuclear power in its constitution and fired several intercontinental ballistic missiles, in violation of UN resolutions.