South Korea disputes North Korea’s claims of hypersonic missile testing

South Korea refutes North Korea’s recent hypersonic missile launch as an exaggeration, saying it is an ordinary ballistic missile that can be intercepted.

SEOUL, South Korea – On Friday, South Korea refuted North Korea’s recent hypersonic missile launch as an exaggeration, saying it was an ordinary ballistic missile that could be intercepted.

This assessment will certainly anger North Korea. South Korea has always avoided publicly arguing about North Korea’s weapons tests, apparently in order not to intensify relations between the two countries.

South Korea’s Ministry of Defense stated that it believed that North Korea did not have the technology needed to launch hypersonic weapons.

It said in a report that North Korea launched a ballistic missile on Wednesday, which was displayed at the weapons exhibition in its capital Pyongyang in October. It said that South Korean and American troops could shoot it down.

The ministry stated that North Korea’s claim that the weapon had flown 700 kilometers (435 miles) and maneuvered laterally appeared to be an exaggeration. Ministry officials said that this statement may be aimed at domestic audiences to increase public confidence in its missile program.

Faced with the difficulties associated with the pandemic, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has been calling for greater unity and improved weapons development. While maintaining strict anti-virus restrictions, he refused to return to disarmament talks with Washington and Seoul.

Wednesday’s launch was the second hypersonic missile test claimed by North Korea. According to its official media, the missile moved 120 kilometers (75 miles) laterally and then accurately hit a target 700 kilometers away. Tests confirmed the flight control and stability of the weapon.

The flight speed of hypersonic weapons exceeds Mach 5, which is five times the speed of sound. Due to their speed and maneuverability, they may pose a major challenge to missile defense systems. The weapon is on the wish list of complex military assets announced by King early last year, as well as multi-warhead missiles, spy satellites, solid fuel long-range missiles and underwater nuclear missiles.

In September, North Korea stated that it had conducted the first flight test of a hypersonic missile.

The South Korean Ministry of Defense reported that the launch on Wednesday did not show any evidence of technological progress since the September test. The South Korean military said earlier that the missile tested in September is in an early stage of development, and the country will take a considerable amount of time to deploy it.

The ministry stated that South Korean missiles are superior to North Korea in terms of warhead destructive power and precision guidance.

The photos show that the shape of the upper part of the missile launched in September and this week is different. Lee Chun-geun, an honorary researcher at the Korea Science and Technology Policy Research Institute, said this indicates that North Korea may have tested two versions of warheads for missiles that are still under development, or is actually developing two different types of missiles.

The current liberal government of South Korea has been working hard to improve relations with North Korea. But since the broader nuclear diplomacy between Pyongyang and Washington broke down in 2019, its appeasement policy has made little progress. South Korea will elect a new president in March.