'Strategic weapon': North Korea fires new hypersonic missile as it enhances weapon systems

North Korea fired a newly designed hypersonic missile off its east coast on Tuesday, according to state news agency KCNA on Wednesday, the latest in a succession of new weaponry tested by the secretive regime. According to South Korean military, North Korea fired the missile into the sea off its east coast, as Pyongyang urged the US and South Korea to abandon their "double standards" on weapons programmes to resume diplomatic discussions. According to KCNA, the development of the weapon system enhances North Korea's defence capabilities, and the hypersonic missile is a "strategic weapon."

Unlike ballistic missiles, which travel into space before returning on steep trajectories, hypersonic weapons fly at lower altitudes and may reach speeds of more than five times the speed of sound - or around 6,200 kilometres per hour (3,853 miles per hour). The test might indicate that the North is joining the United States, Russia, and China in a race to deploy the weapon. North Korea has been gradually upgrading its weapons systems despite a stalemate in talks intended at eliminating its nuclear and ballistic missile arsenals in exchange for sanctions relief from the United States. 

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"In the first test launch, national defence scientists validated the missile's navigational control and stability," according to the report. It stated that the missile, known as the Hwasong-8, met its technical objectives, "including the guiding manoeuvrability and gliding flight characteristics of the detachable hypersonic glide warhead."

Hypersonic weapons are seen as the next generation of weaponry, with the goal of depriving enemies of response time and traditional defeat methods. The United States said that it has successfully launched an air-breathing hypersonic missile, the first such test since 2013. Following South Korean President Moon Jae-request's for declaration to formally end the 1950-1953 Korean War, North Korea stated this week that it was prepared to explore another summit with the South if mutual respect could be ensured. 

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