Seoul Defense Chief Notes Progress in North Korea’s Hypersonic Missile Development

SEOUL - North Korea appears to have advanced in developing a hypersonic missile, according to Seoul's Defense Minister Shin Won-sik. His remarks came following North Korea's claim of a successful test of a solid-fuel hypersonic missile earlier this week. This development highlights a significant step in Pyongyang's military capabilities.

According to Yonhap News Agency, Defense Minister Shin Won-sik discussed these advancements in a radio interview with broadcaster KBS after North Korea launched an intermediate-range missile into the East Sea on Sunday, marking its first ballistic missile test this year. Shin noted that the recent launch featured a conical-shaped warhead similar to the hypersonic missile tested by North Korea in January 2022. "The difference with the 2022 (one) is that was a liquid-propellant missile, while this time it was a solid propellant one that they are newly developing," he said. "(We) assess that there has been some progress."

Solid-fuel missiles are generally more challenging to detect before launch compared to liquid-fuel ones, which require extensive pre-launch preparations. The development of such weaponry aligns with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's 2021 pledge at a party congress to develop high-tech weapons, including hypersonic ones.

Simultaneously, Shin reiterated South Korea's warning against North Korea's increasingly aggressive rhetoric. He referred to Kim Jong-un's recent call for revising North Korea's constitution to officially identify South Korea as its "invariable principal enemy" and to commit to occupying South Korean territory in the event of war. Shin interpreted North Korea's harsh rhetoric as an attempt to unify its population amidst economic struggles.

Shin also cited North Korea's arms exports to Russia as evidence of its unlikely intent to wage war with the South. "Among the missiles being developed by North Korea, the new ones are the so-called Iskander-type one and the 600-millimeter large-caliber multiple launch rocket system," he stated. He noted that most of these newly produced weapons were promptly sold to Russia. "A barking dog does not bite," Shin remarked, questioning whether North Korea would export significant artillery and missiles to Russia if it truly intended to engage in war.

Additionally, Shin addressed reports regarding South Korea's inspection of North Korea's demolition of guard posts inside the Demilitarized Zone under a 2018 inter-Korean military agreement. He raised concerns about the underground facilities of the destroyed guard posts, suggesting that they might have been left intact, as North Korea has been observed quickly restoring them.

The revelations about North Korea's missile capabilities and its political and military strategies underscore the ongoing tension and complex dynamics on the Korean Peninsula.

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