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PoliticsNorth Korea

North Korea claims successful test of multiwarhead missile

June 27, 2024

Pyongyang says it has carried out a test aimed at developing a missile capable of piercing US and South Korean defenses. But Seoul has rejected the claim as a "deception and exaggeration."

People watch a news program broadcasting a file image of a missile launch by North Korea, at Seoul Railway Station in Seoul, South Korea
North Korea has claimed a successful test as it seeks to develop multiwarhead missilesImage: Ahn Young-joon/AP/picture alliance

North Korea has successfully carried out a missile test as part of its bid to develop its capability to destroy several different targets with a single launch, state media agency KCNA said on Thursday.

The North Korean claim came a day after South Korea's military reported that what appeared to be a hypersonic missile launched by the North exploded in midair off its east coast.

South Korea, the United States and Japan condemned the launch as a violation of UN Security Council resolutions.

What did Pyongyang say about the launch?

North Korea said the test was carried out using the first-stage, solid-fuel engine of an intermediate-range ballistic missile and that it aimed to "secure the capability to destroy individual targets using multiple warheads." 

 KCNA said the missile succeeded in separating warheads that were accurately guided to three preset targets.

If confirmed, it would be North Korea's first public launch event connected with the development of a multiwarhead missile,

The communist state has said it wants to develop so-called Multiple Independently Targetable Reentry Vehicle (MIRV) technology that would enable it to overwhelm US and South Korean missile defenses.

South Korean rejects success claim

South Korea said that the launch had failed.

Joint Chiefs of Staff spokesperson Lee Sung Joon told reporters that the separation of warheads in MIRV tests happened in descending stages, while the North Korean missile detected on Wednesday blew up in the initial stage of its flight.

He said North Korean photos of the launch showed a missile similar to a liquid-fuel Hwasong-17 ICBM that the country test-fired in March 2023 and that they had probably been either fabricated or recycled from a previous launch.

"Today North Korea disclosed something, but we believe it's simply a means of deception and exaggeration," Lee said.

The launch came on the heels of last week's meeting between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and Russian President Vladimir Putin, during which the two leaders signed a mutual defense pact.

North Korea has also expressed anger at the deployment of a US aircraft carrier to the region for a joint training with South Korea and Japan.

tj/kb (Reuters, AP) 

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