North Korea says it successfully test-fired newly developed long-range cruise missiles over the weekend, its first known testing activity in months, underscoring how it continues to expand its military capabilities amid a stalemate in nuclear negotiations with the United States.
The Korean Central News Agency said Monday the cruise missiles, which had been under development for two years, demonstrated an ability to hit targets 1,500 kilometers (932 miles) away during flight tests on Saturday and Sunday.
The North hailed its new missiles as a “strategic weapon of great significance” that meets leader Kim Jong Un’s call to strengthen the country’s military might, implying that they were being developed with an intent to arm them with nuclear warheads.
North Korean state media published photos of a projectile being fired from a launcher truck and an apparent missile with wings and tail fins traveling in the air.
Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato said North Korean missiles of such range would pose a “serious threat to the peace and safety of Japan and its surrounding areas.”
“We are extremely concerned,” Kato said while mentioning Japanese efforts to strengthen its missile defense capabilities. He said Tokyo was working with Washington and Seoul to gather information on North Korea’s latest tests but said there was no immediate indication that the weapons reached inside Japan’s exclusive economic zone.
Talks between the United States and North Korea have stalled since the collapse of a summit between Trump and Kim in 2019, when the Americans rejected the North’s demand for major sanctions relief in exchange for a partial surrender of its nuclear capabilities. Kim’s government has so far rejected the Biden administration’s overtures for dialogue, demanding that Washington abandon its “hostile” policies first.
The latest tests came after Kim threw an unusual parade last week in the capital, Pyongyang, that was a marked departure from past militaristic displays, showcasing anti-virus workers in hazmat suits and civil defense organizations involved in industrial work and rebuilding communities destroyed by floods, instead of missiles and other provocative weaponry.
Experts said the parade was focused on domestic unity as Kim now faces perhaps his toughest test, with North Korea wrestling with U.S.-led economic sanctions over its nuclear weapons and pandemic border closures that are causing further strain on its broken economy, as well as food shortages worsened by floods in recent summers.