SEOUL, Jan. 13 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's military is capable of both detecting and intercepting what North Korea claims to be a hypersonic missile, Seoul's defense ministry said Thursday.
Boo Seung-chan, the ministry's spokesperson, highlighted the military's readiness posture amid concerns the North's latest missile could dodge the combined missile defense system of South Korea and the United States.
The North has claimed to have successfully conducted hypersonic missiles on Wednesday last week and Tuesday in an indication of its continued quest for the high-tech flight vehicle.
"Let me make it clear that South Korea's military possesses capabilities to not only detect this projectile but also intercept it," Boo told a regular press briefing. "We have also been continuously strengthening our system to respond."
Boo also pointed out the missile fired this week recorded a top speed of Mach 10 -- 10 times the speed of sound -- during its "boost phase" right after liftoff, remarks that suggested the missile could turn out to be a standard ballistic missile.
The North's medium-range Rodong missile is known to record a top speed of over Mach 9 during the boost phase and then fly much slower during its descent. But a hypersonic missile typically flies at a speed of at least Mach 5 during its glide flight or descent.
Soon after Tuesday's missile launch, Seoul officials assessed it had traveled at a maximum speed of Mach 10 but did not specify in which stage it recorded that speed.
"We hope there will not be any misunderstandings. We did not mean (the latest missile) had flown at Mach 10 during its glide flight," Boo said.
But the spokesperson did not elaborate further, saying the intelligence authorities of South Korea and the U.S. are conducting a detailed analysis for additional information.
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