North Korea launched a ballistic missile that reached Mach 10, Seoul says

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SEOUL, Jan. 10 (UPI) — North Korea fired a ballistic missile Tuesday that reached Mach 10, or 10 times the speed of sound, the South Korean military said, less than a week after the secretive state launched what it claimed was a hypersonic weapon.

Seoul’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a text message that North Korea fired the missile at 7:27 a.m. from northern Jagang Province into the sea between Korea and Japan. It flew more than 435 miles and reached a maximum altitude of 37 miles, marking an advance over the projectile launched last week, the JCS said.

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North Korea said that its previous test was a hypersonic missile, a claim that South Korea’s military later called “exaggerated.” It is unclear whether Pyongyang has secured the technologies to field a hypersonic weapon, which is highly maneuverable and can evade missile defense systems.

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Seoul said it was still analyzing Tuesday’s missile but added that it was capable of defending against it.

“Our military has the ability to detect and intercept this projectile, and we are continuously strengthening our response system,” the JCS said.

Japan’s defense ministry also reported the launch and said that the projectile landed in waters outside of Japan’s exclusive economic zone.

United States Forces Korea said in a statement that the launch does not pose a threat to U.S. or South Korean personnel or territory but “highlights the destabilizing impact of the DPRK’s illicit weapons program.” The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea is the official name of North Korea.

The United States and five other countries issued a joint statement on Monday condemning last week’s launch ahead of a closed-door meeting of the United Nations Security Council.

“The DPRK’s continued pursuit of weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missile programs is a threat to international peace and security,” the statement, which was delivered by U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield, said.

“This launch is the latest in a series of ballistic missile launches and shows the DPRK’s determination to expand its unlawful weapons capabilities,” the statement said. “These actions increase the risk of miscalculation and escalation and pose a significant threat to regional stability.”

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Albania, France, Ireland, Japan and Britain co-signed the letter.

North Korea is prohibited from engaging in any ballistic missile activities under U.N. Security Council resolutions, but that hasn’t deterred the regime of leader Kim Jong Un from developing an increasingly dangerous arsenal, according to a report issued last month by the U.S. Congressional Research Service.

At a recent address marking the new year, Kim emphasized the need to continue building up the country’s defense capabilities “without a moment’s delay.”

The flurry of missile tests comes as South Koran President Moon Jae-in continues to push for renewed diplomacy and an end-of-war declaration with the North. Both sides are technically still at war, as the 1950-53 Korean conflict ended with a cease-fire but not a peace treaty.

Washington has also said that it is willing to come back to the negotiating table with Pyongyang without preconditions, but talks have been stalled for almost three years since a Feb. 2019 summit ended without an agreement.