South Korea's military says the hypersonic missile North Korea said it launched on Tuesday appears to be at an early stage of development and will take a long time for the country to deploy for warfare.
The North's ruling Workers' Party newspaper Rodong Sinmun reported on Wednesday that the test launch of the newly developed Hwasong-8 missile was conducted in the northern province of Jagang the previous day.
South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff says the missile is at an early stage of development, judging from its speed detected by the military.
Sources close to the military say the speed apparently reached around Mach 3. A hypersonic missile is defined as a weapon that flies at more than Mach 5, or five times the speed of sound.
Koizumi Yu, an assistant professor at the University of Tokyo's Research Center for Advanced Science and Technology, said the launch suggests the North's missile development has reached a new stage.
The Japanese military analyst said the missile's warhead has four fins that serve as a rudder and that it is believed to be a hypersonic glide weapon that can change the missile's direction and altitude. He added that it is difficult to intercept such missiles with an existing missile defense system.
Koizumi added that North Korea may reveal other new types of weapons based on a five-year plan to boost its national defense.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un unveiled the plan at a Workers' Party congress in January.