North Korea tests new hypersonic missile with one US target in mind

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North Korea successfully tested technology used in its new hypersonic missile on Tuesday, according to its government-run media.

On Tuesday, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un guided his military on a ground jet test of the multi-stage solid-fuel engine for its new-type intermediate-range hypersonic missile at the North’s rocket launch facility, the Sohae Satellite Launching Ground, the official Korean Central News Agency reported.

The more powerful, agile missile is designed to strike faraway U.S. targets in the region, specifically the U.S. Pacific territory of Guam, home to U.S. military bases.

Kim cited the strategic value of the new missile, which he claimed was capable of targeting the U.S. mainland, and said that “enemies know better about it.” He also applauded “the great success in the important test.”

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Engine test, smoke

In this photo provided by the North Korean government, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, left, watches what it says a test of a solid-fuel engine for its new-type intermediate-range hypersonic missile at the Sohae Satellite Launching Ground in North Korea Tuesday, March 19, 2024. (Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP)

North Korea continues to develop intermediate-range missiles that can also reach Alaska, and hope to be able to strike closer targets like U.S. military installations in Japan’s Okinawa island, experts say. The North is also seeking hypersonic weapons that are capable of defeating the U.S. and South Korean missile defense systems.

In January, North Korea said it flight-tested a new solid-fuel intermediate-range ballistic missile tipped with a hypersonic, maneuverable warhead. In November, North Korea said it had tested engine tests for an intermediate-range missile.

A rocket launching

This photo provided by the North Korean government, shows what it says a flight test of a new solid-fuel intermediate-range in North Korea Sunday, Jan. 14, 2024.  (Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP)

In recent years, North Korea has pushed to develop the built-in solid propellants, which make launches harder to detect than liquid-propellant missiles.

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The speed and maneuverability of the North’s hypersonic missiles is not immediately clear.

Chang Young-keun, a missile expert at South Korea’s Research Institute for National Strategy, predicted Tuesday’s engine test suggests North Korea could soon test-launch the new hypersonic missile.

Kim next to a ship

This undated photo provided on Feb. 2, 2024, by the North Korean government, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, center, visits a shipyard in Nampho, North Korea.  (Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP)

A hypersonic missile is just one of several high-tech weapons systems Kim has publicly vowed to achieve amid what he has called deepening U.S. hostility.

On Monday, South Korea, the U.S. and Japan said they detected multiple ballistic missile test-launches by North Korea. These were the country’s first missile firings in about a month.

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Experts predict North Korea will likely intensify its missile tests ahead of the U.S. presidential election in November.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.