State media say the tests were overseen by leader Kim Jong Un, who has made acquiring tactical nuclear weapons a priority.
North Korea has tested a pair of long-range strategic cruise missiles, with leader Kim Jong Un praising another successful demonstration of the country’s tactical nuclear strike capability.
The test, which took place on Wednesday, was aimed at “improving the effectiveness and combat power” of the cruise missiles deployed in the Korean People’s Army “for the operation of tactical nuclear weapons,” state media KCNA reported on Wednesday. Thursday morning.
It was the latest in a series of weapons launches that have heightened tensions on the divided Korean peninsula and raised fears that Pyongyang may be about to conduct its first nuclear test in five years.
The cruise missiles traveled 2,000 km (1,240 miles) over the sea, according to KCNA, which said the projectiles hit their intended but unspecified targets.
Emphasizing that the test was another clear warning to “enemies,” Kim said the country “must continue to expand the operational sphere of the strategic nuclear armed forces to resolutely deter any crucial military crisis and war crisis at any time and take the full initiative on that,” according to KCNA.
A US State Department spokesman declined to comment on the launches, saying Washington remained focused on coordinating with allies and partners to address threats posed by North Korea.
On Monday, North Korean state media reported that Kim had overseen two weeks of nuclear-guided tactical exercises, including the test of a new intermediate-range ballistic missile (IRBM) that was launched over Japan as a protest against recent joint naval exercises. from South Korea. and the United States that involved the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, the USS Ronald Reagan.
Error discarding evidence
North Korean state media once routinely reported on the country’s weapons tests, but have stopped doing so in recent months.
Analysts say that while the recent “deluge of propaganda” cannot be trusted, the evidence should not be ignored.
“North Korea’s cruise missiles, air force, and tactical nuclear devices are probably far less capable than the propaganda suggests. But it would be a mistake to dismiss North Korea’s recent wave of weapons tests as bragging or saber rattling,” Leif-Eric Easley, a professor at Ewha University in Seoul, wrote in emailed comments.
“Pyongyang’s military threats are a chronic and worsening problem for peace and stability in Asia that should not be ignored. Policymakers in Seoul, Tokyo and Washington must not let domestic politics and other challenges, such as Russia’s war in Ukraine, prevent them from increasing international coordination on military deterrence and economic sanctions.”
North Korea’s cruise missiles generally generate less interest than ballistic weapons because they are not explicitly prohibited by UN Security Council resolutions.
Kim made the acquisition of smaller, lighter tactical nuclear weapons designed for battlefield use a priority at a key party congress in January 2021 and first tested a “strategic” cruise missile in September of that year.
Analysts said it was the country’s first nuclear-capable weapon of its kind and was a worrying development because, in the event of a conflict, it might be unclear whether it carried a conventional or nuclear warhead.
The country revised its nuclear laws last month to allow preemptive strikes, with Kim declaring North Korea an “irreversible” nuclear power, effectively ending the possibility of negotiations over its arsenal.
President Joe Biden released the latest update to the US National Security Strategy on Wednesday, but it contained only a reference to North Korea.
Daniel Russel, the top US diplomat for East Asia under former President Barack Obama, said this was surprising, “not only because it quickly overcomes a persistent and existential threat, but also because it frames the strategy as ‘seeking a sustained diplomacy towards denuclearization’. ‘, when North Korea has so convincingly demonstrated its absolute rejection of negotiations.”