This photo shows the test firing of a hypersonic missile in North Korea. Reuters
Gulf Today Report
North Korea appeared to test fire a ballistic missile on Tuesday that may be more capable than the "hypersonic missile" it launched less than a week earlier, South Korea's military said, as Pyongyang pursues increasingly advanced weapons.
The early-morning launch came as the UN Security Council met in New York to discuss last week's test of what Pyongyang called a hypersonic missile, although Seoul has cast doubt on that claim.
The launches underscored leader Kim Jong Un's New Year's vow to bolster the military with cutting-edge technology at a time when talks with South Korea and the United States have stalled.
Initial estimates found Tuesday's missile travelled more than 700 km (435 miles) to a maximum altitude of 60 km (37 miles) at a top speed up to 10 times the speed of sound (12,348 kmh/7,673 mph), South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said in a statement.
"We assess that this is more advanced than the missile North Korea fired on Jan. 5, though South Korean and US intelligence authorities are conducting detailed analysis," the JCS said.
People walk past a television screen showing file footage of a North Korean missile test in Seoul, South Korea. AFP
After an emergency meeting, South Korea's national security council expressed "strong regret over the launch", according to a statement from the president's office.
The suspected ballistic missile launch was detected around 7:27am (2227 GMT Monday) from North Korea's Jagang Province toward the ocean off its east coast, the same location as last week's test.
North Korea has joined a global race in developing hypersonic missiles, which are usually defined as weapons that reach speeds of at least five times the speed of sound — or about 6,200 kms per hour (3,850 mph) - and can manoeuvre at relatively low trajectories, making them much harder to detect and intercept.
Last week, South Korean military officials cast doubts on the capabilities of the hypersonic missile North Korea claimed to have test fired on Wednesday, saying it appeared to represent limited progress over Pyongyang's existing ballistic missiles.
A TV shows the North Korea's missile launch at the Seoul Railway Station in Seoul, South Korea, on Tuesday. AP
"Today's test might be intended to send a message to the South after authorities here said the earlier test was a failure and did not involve a hypersonic missile," Kim Dong-yup, a former South Korea Navy officer who now teaches at Seoul's Kyungnam University.
Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida told reporters that it was "extremely regrettable that North Korea continues to launch missiles".
There were no immediate reports of damage to Japanese aircraft or vessels, according to government spokesman Hirokazu Matsuno.
"(The suspected missile) is estimated to have flown approximately up to 700 kilometres and landed outside of Japan's exclusive economic zone," he said.
Seoul's Joint Chiefs of Staff also confirmed that it had been fired from land at around 7:27am local time (2227 GMT on Monday).
North Korea appears to be pausing its tests during the Winter Olympics in China, its most important ally and economic lifeline. But analysts believe North Korea will dramatically increase its weapons testing after the Olympics.
South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff reported that North Korea had fired a suspected ballistic missile toward the sea off its east coast from a location near Sunan, where Pyongyang's international airport is located.
The launches are the latest in a series of North Korean weapons tests in recent months that have raised tensions in the region. They came a day after Pyongyang fired more than 20 missiles, the most it has fired in a single day ever.
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