N. Korea said it successfully tested a new long-range cruise missile over the weekend, escalating tensions in the first public test activity in months despite a protracted standoff in nuclear talks with the United States.
The test launches went off “successfully” on Saturday and Sunday, according to state news agency Korean Central News Agency.
The test launches came ahead of President Biden’s nuclear envoy, Sung Kim, visiting Tokyo this week to meet with his Japanese and South Korean counterparts.
Kim met with his South Korean counterpart in Seoul last month, where he stated that he was willing to meet with N. Koreans “anywhere, at any time” for discussions.
N. Korea has yet to respond to the Biden administration’s outreach attempts, which did not indicate a willingness to grant Pyongyang’s demand for a sanctions reprieve.
N. Korea developed the cruise missiles over two years, according to state media, to meet key defense goals set by N. Korean leader Kim Jong Un – a claim that hinted at the missiles’ prospective nuclear capabilities. The missiles are a “strategic weapon of immense significance,” according to KCNA.
According to KCNA, the test-fired missiles hit targets 1,500 kilometres (932 miles) away, putting much of Japan within range.
“The North Koreans have a habit of using the word ‘strategic’ as a euphemism for nuclear-capable,” Ankit Panda, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in the United States, said.
During a news conference on Monday, Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato said that rumours of the missiles’ ability to reach Japan were worrying and that Japanese officials were analysing and monitoring the situation in collaboration with South Korea and the United States.
N. Korea held its first military parade since Biden took office just days before the announcement. The parade featured a reduced display of armaments and a focus on home unity in the face of national difficulties.
N. Korea, which has weak public health skills, has taken drastic efforts to combat the coronavirus at a high economic cost. Due to virus concerns, the country closed its borders and halted most international trade throughout the pandemic.
The South Korean military said Monday that it was working with the US to perform a complete study of the missiles. It did not clarify whether the tests had been spotted earlier.
U.S. officials are watching reports of cruise missile launches, according to the US Indo-Pacific Command.
N. Korea’s official name is the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, and this activity underlines the DPRK’s continued priority on building its military programme and the threats it poses to its neighbours and the international community, according to the US Indo-Pacific Command.
According to the KCNA, the missiles soared in a “pattern-8 flight orbit” over N. Korean land and waters for more than two hours.
According to the KCNA, N. Korea’s leader did not appear to be present at the test, but Pak Jong Chon, the country’s senior military officer, was.