(ATTN: ADDS photo, quotes, more info from 3rd para)
By Choi Soo-hyang
SEOUL, Sept. 29 (Yonhap) -- North Korea's newly unveiled "hypersonic missile" appears to be at an early stage of development and can be intercepted by South Korean and U.S. military assets, the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said Wednesday.
The assessment came hours after the North's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said the country's Academy of Defense Science conducted the first test fire of the hypersonic Hwasong-8 missile from Toyang-ri, Jagang Province, on Tuesday.
"Given the detected speed and other features of the 'hypersonic missile' North Korea said it test-fired yesterday, it appears to be at an early stage of development that would require considerable time for actual deployment," the JCS said in a statement.
The North's missile reportedly flew at a speed of around Mach 3, though the military declined to confirm details, including its flight range and altitude.
Hypersonic missiles usually fly at a speed of at least Mach 5, or 6,125 kilometers per hour, and are capable of striking targets from longer ranges within a shorter period of time, giving little time for enemies to respond.
The United States, China and Russia are also developing the hypersonic weapon, though the North's version is believed to fall short of its counterparts.
"South Korea and the U.S. were monitoring North Korea's test launch under a close coordination," a JCS official said, adding that the military will keep tabs on the North's missile activities and maintain a readiness posture.
The launch came three days after Kim Yo-jong, sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, said Pyongyang could declare a formal end to the Korean War as suggested by the South and even discuss the possibility of a summit on conditions that Seoul drops what she called a "hostile policy" against the North.
On Tuesday, the National Security Council convened an emergency meeting over the missile launch and expressed regret, but stopped short of calling it a provocation.
The U.S. has condemned the latest missile test as a violation of multiple U.N. Security Council resolutions that poses a "threat" to its neighbors and the international community.
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