September 13, (THEWILL) – North Korea has successfully fired a new long-range cruise missile, its state media has said.
It has stoked international concern over what analysts say is likely a weapon with nuclear potential.
In the tests staged over the weekend, the North Korean missiles travelled and hit targets at a distance of 1,500km (930 miles), according to the state-run Korean Central News Agency (KNCA); a range that would make it capable of hitting much of Japan.
The US military expressed concerns over the missile tests, saying they posed “threats” to the country’s neighbours and beyond, describing the missile as “a strategic weapon of great significance.”
South Korea said its military is analysing the launches using US and South Korean intelligence.
The US military’s Indo-Pacific command said: “This activity highlights [North Korea’s] continuing focus on developing its military program and the threats that poses [to] its neighbours and the international community.”
This is North Korea’s first known testing activity since March, when it launched a new short-range tactical missile.
The country also conducted a cruise missile test just after US President Joe Biden took office in January.
The recent test did not involve ballistic missiles, which can carry large nuclear warheads, and so is not banned under UN Security Council resolutions.
“This would be the first cruise missile in North Korea to be explicitly designated a ‘strategic’ role,” Ankit Panda, a senior fellow at the US-based Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, told Reuters. “This is a common euphemism for a nuclear-capable system.”
The test, if confirmed, represents an uptick in North Korean military research activity after a relatively quiet period.
Last month, the UN said North Korea appears to have restarted a nuclear reactor, potentially producing plutonium for nuclear weapons.
Talks over North Korea’s nuclear disarmament have been at a standstill since 2019. However, negotiators from South Korea, Japan and the United States are meeting this week to discuss ways to break that impasse.