North Korea said Friday it test-fired a new type of anti-aircraft missile a day earlier capable of downing air targets at longer distances with enhanced accuracy.
The North’s Academy of Defence Science carried out the test aimed at “confirming the practicality of operation of the launcher, radar, and comprehensive battle command vehicle as well as the comprehensive combat performance of the missile,” the official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said.
The academy verified the “remarkable” combat performance of the new missile that features rapid response and guided accuracy with a missile control system as it introduced new technologies that included “twin-rudder control technology” and a “double-impulse flight engine,” according to the KCNA.
The North has also been successful in substantially increasing the effective range of the missile, it added.
The twin-rudder control technology appears to be aimed at increasing mobility by attaching variable wings to the warhead and at the middle of the missile.
Pak Jong-chon, a member of the Presidium of the Politburo of the ruling Workers’ Party, guided the launch. Leader Kim Jong-un did not attend the firing.
The new weapon seems to be an upgraded surface-to-air missile that was first showcased at a military parade to mark the 75th anniversary of the North’s ruling party foundation in October last year.
Experts say the North appears to be in the process of modernizing its aging air defense system to better counter threats from advanced weapons, such as F-35A stealth fighters.
“With a booster attached at the bottom, the new missile will be able to fly faster and longer than the existing KN-06 surface-to-air missile,” Shin Jong-woo, a senior analyst at the Korea Defense Security Forum in Seoul, said.
Thursday’s firing marked the North’s fourth known major weapons test in less than a month and the seventh this year.
During a speech at the country’s rubber-stamp parliament Wednesday, Kim said his country is “developing a powerful new weapon system capable of thoroughly containing the military moves of the hostile forces,” and that its “ultra-modern weapons” are “being developed at an extremely fast speed.”
“An analysis is under way on North Korea’s report of the anti-aircraft missile test-launch,” an official at South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said.
It was not immediately clear if the military knew in advance about the North’s moves to test-fire the new missile.
Asked if there were any signs of preparations for additional missile launches from the North on Thursday, JCS spokesman Col. Kim Jun-rak said there were no activities to comment on as of then, adding the military was “monitoring related moves under close coordination with South Korea-U.S. intelligence authorities.”
South Korea’s unification ministry said it will continue efforts to restart inter-Korean talks while keeping a close watch on the North’s next move.
“The unification ministry will keep a close eye on North Korea, as well as our military’s further analysis, and continue our efforts to stably manage the situation on the Korean Peninsula by restoring the inter-Korean liaison communication lines and resuming dialogue,” Cha Deok-cheol, the ministry’s deputy spokesperson, told a regular press briefing.
North Korea has recently ratcheted up tensions by conducting its first test-launch of a hypersonic missile earlier this week, just two weeks after test-firing two short-range ballistic missiles into the East Sea.
The latest missile launch also comes as the North has signaled a willingness to improve ties with the South in recent weeks on the condition that Seoul drops its “double standards” of denouncing the North’s “defensive” weapons tests while justifying its own arms build-up.
In the speech at the Supreme People’s Assembly, leader Kim said that cross-border communication lines with South Korea will be restored in early October as part of efforts to improve chilled relations.
Kim also said the North has “neither aim nor reason” to provoke South Korea and urged Seoul to “get rid of the delusion” that it has to deter the North’s provocations.
Inter-Korean relations have remained in a deadlock since the no-deal summit between the U.S. and North Korea in early 2019.