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North Korea claims launch of solid-fuel missile with hypersonic payload

People watch a television screen showing a news broadcast with file footage of a North Korean missile test, at a railway station in Seoul on 14 January. North Korea was said to have fired a ballistic missile that day and this was confirmed by Pyongyang on 15 January. (Jung Yeon-je/AFP via Getty Images)

North Korea has claimed that the weapon it tested on 14 January was a solid-fuel intermediate-range ballistic missile (IRBM) that was tipped with a hypersonic warhead.

The latest test was carried out to verify the gliding and manoeuvring capabilities of the weapon's controllable hypersonic warhead and the reliability of the newly developed multistage high-thrust solid-fuel engines, read a statement released by state-run Korea Central News Agency (KCNA) on 15 January.

It was carried out successfully and the test did not affect the security of any neighbouring country and had nothing to do with the “regional situation”, the statement added, without elaborating further on this. The agency further added that the test firing is part of regular activities to develop powerful weapon systems.

The event on 14 January is the first known missile launch to have been carried out by North Korea since the start of 2024 after an unprecedented number of tests it carried out in 2023, including with longer-range intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs).

Citing information from the South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) the country's official Yonhap News Agency reported on 14 January that North Korea had launched what appears to be an IRBM towards the Sea of Japan (East Sea).

The weapon was launched from near Pyongyang at about 1455 h local time and flew for about 1,000 km before falling into the sea.

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