Por Josh Smith y Hyonhee Shin
SEOUL, Jan 11 (Reuters) – According to the South Korean military, North Korea on Tuesday tested a ballistic missile that could be more powerful than the “hypersonic missile” it had launched less than a week earlier, at a time when Pyongyang is trying to get more and more advanced weapons.
The launches confirmed leader Kim Jong Un’s New Year’s promise to bolster the military with cutting-edge technology, at a time when talks with South Korea and the United States are at a standstill.
According to early estimates, Tuesday’s missile traveled more than 700 km and reached a maximum altitude of 60 km at a maximum speed 10 times the speed of sound (12,348 km / h), South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement. .
“We consider it to be a more advanced missile than the one North Korea fired on January 5, although South Korean and US intelligence authorities are conducting a detailed analysis,” the JCS said.
The suspected launch of the ballistic missile was detected around 7:27 a.m. (2227 GMT Monday) from North Korea’s Jagang province into the ocean off its eastern coast, the same site as last week’s test.
North Korea has joined a worldwide race to develop hypersonic missiles, often defined as weapons that reach speeds of at least five times the speed of sound – or about 6,200 km per hour (3,850 mph) – and can maneuver in trajectories relatively low, making them much more difficult to detect and intercept.
Last week, South Korean military officials questioned the capabilities of the hypersonic missile that North Korea claimed to have tested on Wednesday, saying it appeared to represent limited progress over Pyongyang’s existing ballistic missiles.
“Today’s test could be intended to send a message to the South after the authorities in this country said that the previous test was a failure and that it was not a hypersonic missile,” said Kim Dong-yup, a former official. of the South Korean Navy who now teaches at Kyungnam University in Seoul.
(Information from Hyonhee Shin and Josh Smith in Seoul, and from the Tokyo office; additional information from David Brunnstrom in Washington. Written by Josh Smith. Edited by Lincoln Feast; translation by Flora Gómez)