North Korea successfully tested a hypersonic missile on Wednesday, its first major weapons test this year, a state media report said.
KCNA said it “accurately met” a set target 700 km away.
This is the second reported hypersonic missile test that has been able to avoid detection longer than ballistic missiles.
The test comes after its leader Kim Jong-un swore earlier to strengthen Pyongyang’s defenses.
Mr. Kim said in a New Years address that Pyongyang will continue to strengthen its defense capabilities due to an increasingly unstable military environment on the Korean peninsula.
North Korea tested a large number of missiles over the past year while talks with the South and the US stalled.
Pyongyang is joining a small number of countries, including the United States and China, trying to develop this weapon.
The most recent launch was first spotted by the Japanese Coast Guard early Wednesday before it was confirmed by defense authorities in Seoul.
In Wednesday’s test, the “hypersonic sliding warhead” detached itself from its rocket booster and maneuvered 120 km (75 miles) sideways before “precisely” hitting a target 700 km (430 miles) away, KCNA reported.
The test also confirmed components such as the flight controls and their suitability for winter use.
Hypersonic weapons usually fly at lower altitudes than ballistic missiles and can reach more than five times the speed of sound – or about 6,200 km per hour (3,850 miles per hour).
The tests are taking place as Pyongyang faces food shortages due to a coronavirus blockade that has severely impacted its economy.
Speaking at the year-end meeting, Mr. Kim said the country was facing a “great battle of life and death,” adding that increasing development and improving people’s living standards were goals for this year.
Even so, North Korea is showing no signs of slowing down its weapons program, saying it is needed for its own self-defense.
The US is calling on North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons and Pyongyang’s relationship with President Joe Biden’s administration has been tense so far.