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Hwasong-8: Does North Korea Really Have a Hypersonic Missile?

Hwasong-8 Hypersonic Missile
Image: KCNA/North Korean State Media.

North Korea made news this week with its latest missile launch, this time claiming that it had fired a “hypersonic missile,” per CNN and countless outlets on the Korean Peninsula. It’s called the Hwasong-8 missile, according to an announcement by the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).

CNN also quoted experts as stating that the missile could “change the equation” in the region.

“A hypersonic missile that can defeat advanced missile-defense systems is a game-changer if a nuclear warhead is mated to it,” said Drew Thompson, a former US Defense Department official and a visiting senior research fellow at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at the National University of Singapore, told CNN. However, Thompson added that “it’s a huge if.”

Indeed, South Korea is saying that the missile fired this week is likely in “an early stage of development.”

According to a report by the Yonhap News Agency, South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff say the missile is in such an early stage that it “can be intercepted by South Korean and U.S. military assets.” In addition, the missile appeared to fly at Mach 3, while “hypersonic” typically means the missile was flying at least Mach 5.

“Given the detected speed and other features of the ‘hypersonic missile’ North Korea said it test-fired yesterday, it appears to be at an early stage of development that would require considerable time for actual deployment,” the South Korean Joint Chiefs said in a statement, reported by Yonhap. “South Korea and the U.S. were monitoring North Korea’s test launch under a close coordination.”

The U.S. national security establishment, both at the State Department and Pentagon, has also condemned the launch.

“We do condemn the DPRK’s missile launches. These missile launches are in violation of multiple U.N. Security Council resolutions. We know that they pose a threat to DPRK’s neighbors and other members of the international community,” a State Department spokesman said during a briefing this week, per the Korea Times. State also reiterated that the Biden Administration remains committing to a restart of diplomacy with the North Koreans.

“The launches are in violation of multiple U.N. Security Council resolutions, and these activities highlight the destabilizing impact of the DPRK’s illicit weapons program,” Defense Department spokesman John Kirby said this week, also according to Korea Times. “It’s about making sure that our missile defense system, wherever it’s deployed, is effective and capable, and we routinely test and experiment and try to improve that system on a daily basis.”

Back in April, it was reported that North Korea had established a new college, focused on hypersonic missile technology, at the Kim Jong Un National Defense University.

Stephen Silver is a journalist, essayist and film critic, who is also a contributor to The Philadelphia Inquirer, Philly Voice, Philadelphia Weekly, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Living Life Fearless, Backstage magazine, Broad Street Review and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.

Written By

Stephen Silver is a journalist, essayist, and film critic, who is also a contributor to Philly Voice, Philadelphia Weekly, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Living Life Fearless, Backstage magazine, Broad Street Review, and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.

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