In recent years, North Korea has bitterly complained about the United States’ sales of sophisticated weapons, especially F-35 fighter jets, to the South, saying they raised tensions on the Korean Peninsula and compelled the North to build up its own war deterrent, including a nuclear arsenal.
The test on Thursday was the second this week. On Wednesday, the North said it had test-launched what it called a hypersonic missile, a highly sophisticated weapon also being developed by elite military powers like the United States and Russia. The new weapon, the Hwasong-8, was a ballistic missile tipped with a hypersonic gliding warhead designed to detach midair.
The South Korean military said that the Hwasong-8 was in an early stage of development. But the test was the latest signal that North Korea is developing missiles capable of delivering nuclear warheads that would be harder to intercept by missile defense systems deployed by the United States and its allies South Korea and Japan.
In 2017, North Korea test-launched three intercontinental ballistic missiles and conducted its sixth underground nuclear test. By the end of the year, the North’s leader, Kim Jong-un, claimed that his country had the ability to launch a nuclear strike against the continental United States.
He then met with President Donald J. Trump three times to push the United States to lift international sanctions imposed on his country, offering a partial rollback of his nuclear weapons program in return.