North Korea says it successfully launched hypersonic missile

The U.S. and Russia have recently tested similarly equipped hypersonic weapons
Image
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un
(MANAN VATSYAYANA / Getty Images)

According to reports from North Korean state media, the country successfully tested a hypersonic missile into the sea this week. The weapon is a new model that will bolster the isolated nation's defense abilities.

South Korea's Joint Chief of Staff reports that after analyzing the North's launch, the Hwasong-8 missile appears a ways away from being ready for combat. Though, the launch does emphasize the "destabilizing impact of (North Korea's) illicit weapons program," said the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command. 

Furthermore, one South Korean missile expert believes North Korea's missile only clocked Mach 2.5, meaning it would be a supersonic not hypersonic weapon. 

Hypersonic weapons are low-flying devices that can reach speeds of more than 3,800 mph – roughly five times the speed of sound. Their speed makes them difficult targets to shoot down.

Nuclear capabilities are another globally disconcerting facet of the missile's likely capabilities, which the North has publicly continued developing, much to the chagrin of neighboring nations. 

"We regret that the missile was fired at a time when it was very important to stabilize the situation of the Korean peninsula," said Boo Seung-chan, South Korea's defense ministry spokesperson.

In recent weeks both Russia and the United States have successfully tested hypersonic weapons. For the U.S., it was the first successful test of that weapons class in nearly a decade.