Kim Jong-un celebrates hypersonic missile launch – Biden ready to ‘intercept’

North Korea insists it has the right to test missiles

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The missile was fired off the east coast of the country towards the sea according to South Korean military sources. The launch comes amid a volley of missiles tested by Pyongyang over the last few weeks, breaching UN Security Council regulations on the testing and firing of such weapons by North Korea.

Unlike ballistic missiles that leave the atmosphere before returning to their target at a steep angle, hypersonic missiles fly towards their targets at low altitudes, flying at more than 5 times the speed of sound, equating to about 6,200km per hour (3,853mph).

Only the United States of America, China and Russia have laid claim to having worked on such technology until now.

Although the technology is at an early stage, Seoul and Washington DC have been placed on high alert as North Korea confirmed the launch was to ‘test navigational control and stability’.

North Korea already has a missile arsenal capable of reaching various US targets in the Pacific Ocean, as well as the Hwasong-15 ICBM, which is said to be capable of hitting any target within the US mainland.

Speaking to Al-Jazeera, North Korea expert, Leonid Petrov, a senior lecturer at the International College of Management, Sydney said: “certainly it’s a very powerful weapon and North Koreas are very proud to have delivered their first successful test.”

Some however question whether Pyongyang has the capability and technology knowledge to advance the programme.

Leif-Eric Easley, an associate professor of international studies at Ewha Woman’s University in Seoul claimed the missiles are hard to detect because of their speed and varied trajectories.

“It is unlikely that North Korea has reliably developed all the technologies its propaganda claim.

“However, if Pyongyang managed to fit a nuclear warhead on even a rudimentary hypersonic, it would be a dangerous weapon because it wouldn’t have to be extremely accurate to threaten the nearby metropolis of Seoul.”

With the North Korea leader’s hard-line sister Kim Yo-Jong claiming that Pyongyang may be open to diplomatic talks with the United States, and Washington ready to reciprocate, some see the launch as a catalyst for such talks.

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Lim Eul-Chul, a professor at the Institute for Far Eastern Studies at Kyungnam University said that North Korea was using military development “as a means to make room for diplomatic manoeuvring as well as enhancing military posture.”

The new launch will now put US President Joe Biden under pressure to respond.

Two weeks ago, following the launch of ballistic missiles into the sea by North Korea, a US Department of State spokesperson said: “We remain committed to a diplomatic approach to the DPRK and call on them to engage in dialogue. Our commitment to the defence of the Republic of Korea and Japan remains ironclad.”

With Seoul and Tokyo fearing the consequences of the testing and seeking reassurance from the USA that they will be protected, the upcoming AUKUSP deal, which seeks to protect the Indo-Pacific region, could be seen as a future lifeline.

Although some time away from operational functionality, the trilateral agreement which some say is designed to hold China at bay, could also have a positive impact on security issues surrounding the Korean peninsula.

For now, Kim Jong-Un is using carrot and stick diplomacy to send his signals to the United States.
With the COVID-19 situation blocking imports from China to North Korea, the leader admitted tough times for the nation and hence is clearly leaving the door open for talks, whilst at the same time, demonstrating Pyongyang’s capability and autonomy.

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