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Is North Korea’s Hypersonic Missile Really Hypersonic?

North Korea Hypersonic Missile
Image: KCNA/North Korean State Media.

North Korea’s Academy of Defence Science has confirmed that it tested the Hwasong-8 missile, one that it claimed carried a “hypersonic gliding warhead.”

However, there’s been some doubt raised over whether the missile actually meets the definition of “hypersonic.”

“I understand the intelligence community’s still making an assessment of the North Korean claim to have tested a hypersonic,” Gen. Glen VanHerck said at a virtual Defense Department briefing, as reported by Yonhap News Service. “We’ll just have to see that capability right now. It would be my assessment that the homeland would be safe and secure from a hypersonic capability as North Korea claims they have tested.”

First Hypersonics, Now Here Come the SLBMs

But North Korea has not stopped with testing just hypersonic missiles, and just tested as well a new submarine-launched ballistic missile.  According to Yonhap, Defense Minister Suh Wook addressed the launch this week.

“North Korea appears to be making a lot of efforts (to develop SLBMs) as seen in its display of three SLBMs at a defense exhibition,” Suh said during a parliamentary audit session, per the news service. “But (the missile) should be paired with the launch platform. Thus, we think it is at an early stage.”

“We are not analyzing just that single SLBM launch,” Suh added. “We need to look at the issue of the launch platform and whether the submarine operates normally after a missile launch.” Suh also said that he believes the SLBM can be intercepted.

More and More Missiles: China Also Testing Hypersonics

The North Korean launch isn’t the only launch reported in the last week from a country in Asia that may or may not have involved hypersonic weaponry.

The Financial Times reported last week that China tested a nuclear-capable hypersonic missile back in August and that the missile  “circled the globe before speeding towards its target, demonstrating an advanced space capability that caught US intelligence by surprise.”

However, China almost immediately denied the report.

“This was not a missile, this was a spacecraft,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said Monday, according to the BBC. “This is of great significance for reducing the cost of spacecraft use.”

China is thought to be among the many countries that are developing hypersonic weapons, including the United States and Russia.

Meanwhile,  Robert Farley wrote for 1945 this week that “China doesn’t need hypersonic missiles to nuke America.”

“The test has been met by much confusion in the mainstream media, which finds the idea of a new technology that can carry nuclear weapons to the United States terribly alarming,” he wrote. “The fact that China has long deployed ICBMs that can strike the United States has been lost in many of these discussions. As is often the case with new technological developments, some things have changed. More things have remained the same.”

 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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