KIM Jong-un has cheered on North Korea’s third hypersonic missile test as his all-powerful sister watched in the background.
The nuclear armed country’s state media said the missile flew 435 miles at an altitude of about 37 miles and reached a speed of at Mach 10 – or 7672mph.
Official news agency KCNA said the test demonstrated “the superior manoeuverability of the hypersonic glide vehicle” and claimed it hit a target some 620 miles away.
The presence of the 34-year-old Yo-jong is seen as significant and a sign of her growing influence, NK News reports.
She has begun to make public pronouncements of her own, including threatening the United States for holding military drills with South Korea.
“Everything about this test is a reminder that North Korea is all-in on a new military modernization campaign,” said Ankit Panda of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
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Hypersonic missiles travel at speeds of at least Mach 5 – five times the speed of sound.
The technology consists of a glide vehicle launched on a rocket up to around 40 miles and then detaching to home in on a target.
Unlike conventional ballistic missiles, as the glide vehicles descend to earth they able to be manoeuvered at extreme speeds, making them hard to intercept.
Russia and China are regarded as being the world leaders in hypersonic missiles with the United States investing to catch up.
Hypersonic missiles are listed among the “top priority” tasks for strategic weapons development in North Korea’s five-year plan.
After the launch, Kim said North Korea must “further accelerate the efforts to steadily build up the country’s strategic military muscle both in quality and quantity and further modernize the army”.
Leif-Eric Easley, a professor at Ewha University in Seoul, said the weapon was not ready for deployment.
But he added: “Nonetheless, Pyongyang’s ability to threaten its neighbours continues to grow.”
Kim Yo-jong was born in September 1987, the daughter of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-il.
She is said to have had a close relationship with brother Kim Jong-un from an early age.
Both studied together in Switzerland between 1996 and 2000 with each depending on the other for company and support during those isolated years.
It is believed she went on to further her education at the Kim Il-sung Military University and then computer science at the Kim Il-sung university.
The tests come as North Korea has refused to respond to US appeals for talks.
Dialogue between Washington and Pyongyang remains stalled, and the country is under multiple sets of international sanctions over its nuclear and ballistic missile programmes.