SEOUL:North Korea state media on Wednesday said that its leader Kim Jong Un attended what it described as another "hypersonic missile" successful test.
According to the pictures shown in the Korean Central News Agency, Kim wearing a leather jacket and peering with binoculars inside what appears to be an observation stand meant for him to observe the Tuesday launch, reported Voice of America (VOA).
It is the first test he has personally observed since early 2020, according to state media reports. By attending the test, Kim may be signalling that hypersonic missile development is a priority, said analysts.
The missile demonstrated "excellent manoeuvrability" and accurately hit a target about 1,000 kilometres away, said the state media.
That is longer than the range estimated Tuesday by South Korea's military, which closely tracks such launches. Seoul's Defense Ministry said the missile travelled only about 700 kilometres but demonstrated improved capabilities, reported VOA.
The latest North Korean missile flew at a maximum speed of Mach 10, or 10 times the speed of sound, compared with Mach 6 for the missile launched last week, South Korea's Yonhap news agency quoted Seoul officials as saying.
This is North Korea's second test this year of what is referred to as a hypersonic missile. Following its launch last week, South Korea claimed North Korea was exaggerating its capabilities.
Judging from North Korean state media photos, the missile launched Tuesday appeared to feature the same conical shape as the weapon tested last week, reported VOA.
Meanwhile, US officials have condemned the launches. "Obviously (it) takes us in the wrong direction," said Victoria Nuland, undersecretary for political affairs at the State Department.
"As you know, the United States has been saying since this administration came in that we are open to dialogue with North Korea, that we are open to talking about COVID and humanitarian support. And instead, they're firing off missiles," added Nuland.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki also condemned the launch as a violation of United Nations Security Council resolutions. She also called for North Korea to return to nuclear talks that the North abandoned in 2019, reported VOA.