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North Korea says it test-fired new solid-fuel hypersonic missile

SEOUL (Reuters) -- North Korea successfully test-fired a new hypersonic missile, state news agency KCNA said on Wednesday, the latest step in a plan its leader Kim Jong Un described as aimed at using solid fuel to power missiles of all ranges.

The North is developing missiles and nuclear weapons undeterred by sanctions in the wake of U.N. Security Council bans, while analysts say solid-fuel missiles can be faster to deploy than liquid-fuel variants.

It drew swift condemnation from neighbors South Korea and Japan, as well as the United States for firing the intermediate-range ballistic missile (IRBM) into the sea on Tuesday.

Kim oversaw the launch of the new Hwasong-16B missile, KCNA said, calling it a strategic weapon showcasing the "absolute superiority" of the North's defense technology.

It perfects the North's project for "putting all the tactical, operational and strategic missiles with various ranges on solid-fueled, warhead-controlled and nuclear warhead-carrying basis," Kim said, according to KCNA.

That would give North Korea the capacity for "rapidly, accurately and powerfully striking any target in the enemy side worldwide," Kim said.

Analysts said it was unclear if the North would exclusively build solid-fuel missiles in future, and what a switch would mean for its arsenal of liquid-fuel weapons, such as its largest Hwasong-17 and Hwasong-15 intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs).

North Korea may heavily favor solid-fuel systems where possible, but actually phasing out liquid-fuel weapons would likely only play out over years, said Ankit Panda of the U.S.-based Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

"There are obvious strategic advantages to an all-solid-fuel force for them in the form of greater promptness,