North Korea Claims New Hypersonic Missile Milestone

North Korea has said it successfully tested a new hypersonic missile powered by solid propellants, a day after South Korea and Japan detected a missile launched from Pyongyang toward the east.

The state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) published photos on Wednesday of leader Kim Jong Un overseeing the launch of the Hwasong-16B, equipped with a hypersonic glide warhead. He said the new medium-to-long-range missile demonstrates the “absolute superiority” of Pyongyang’s defense technology and is a key piece of his nuclear war deterrent.

In January, North Korea launched what it said was its first hypersonic missile, with the South saying it flew 620 miles before landing off the Korean Peninsula’s east coast.

Hypersonic missiles are designed to fly at a speed of more than five times the speed of sound, and their warheads manoeuver mid-flight, making them difficult to track and intercept. Missiles powered with solid propellants do not need to be fuelled immediately ahead of launch. This makes them easier to launch at short notice, harder to detect and destroy, and more survivable than missiles that have a liquid-fuel system.

North Korea has now developed nuclear-capable, solid-fuel systems for “all the tactical, operational and strategic missiles with various ranges,” Kim said after the test launch, KCNA reported.

North Korean missile test
A woman walks past a television screen showing a news broadcast with file footage of a North Korean missile test, at a railway station in Seoul on April 2, 2024. North Korea fired a medium-range…


The missile is “another powerful strategic offensive weapon” and Pyongyang has achieved its goal of developing missiles “with various ranges on solid-fueled, warhead-controlled and nuclear warhead-carrying basis,” the North Korean leader said.

It would give Pyongyang the capacity for “rapidly, accurately and powerfully striking any target in the enemy side worldwide,” Kim added, likely referencing the United States, South Korea and Japan.

South Korea’s military said the missile traveled about 600 kilometers (372 miles) before landing in waters of the East Sea between Japan and South Korea. KCNA offered different figures, saying it flew around 1,000 kilometers (620 miles), reaching a peak altitude of 101 kilometers (62 miles). However, South Korea has disputed this, saying the numbers were exaggerated.

KCNA also said had limited the missile’s range “in consideration of safety.”

“The test-fire had no adverse effect on the security of neighbouring countries,” KCNA added.

The Joint Chiefs of Staff of the Republic of Korea said in a statement that “the flight distance claimed by North Korea (1,000 km) differs from our military’s analysis and is evaluated as an exaggeration,” adding, “The results of the analysis by South Korea, the United States and Japan are over 600 km,” Seoul-based Yonhap News Agency reported.