North Korea says it has successfully test fired what it described as newly developed long-range cruise missiles over the weekend and it is thought they could have nuclear capabilities.
It represents the country’s first known testing activity in months, underscoring that it continues to expand its military capabilities amid a stalemate in nuclear negotiations with the United States.
According to North Korea analyst Ankit Panda, it's also the country's first such weapon with nuclear capability.
The Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said on Monday the cruise missiles, which had been under development for two years, successfully hit targets 932 miles away during its 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.
South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said the military was analysing the North Korean launches based on US and South Korean intelligence.
KCNA said the missiles tested over the weekend travelled for 126 minutes “along an oval and pattern-8 flight orbits” above North Korean land and waters before hitting their targets.
Kim Jong Un watches over parades of goose-stepping soldiers and health workers in hazmat suits as North Korea celebrated its 73rd anniversary on Thursday.
It added: “The test launches showed that the technical indices such as the thrust power of the newly developed turbine-blast engine, the missiles’ navigation control and the end guided hit accuracy by the combined guided mode met the requirements of designs.
“In all, the efficiency and practicality of the weapon system operation was confirmed to be excellent.”
It appeared that Mr Kim was not in attendance to observe the tests. KCNA said the dictator's top military official, Pak Jong Chon, observed the test-firings and called for the country’s defence scientists to go “all out to increase” the North’s military capabilities.
During a congress of the ruling Workers’ Party in January, Mr Kim doubled down on his pledge to bolster his nuclear deterrent in the face of US sanctions and pressure and issued a long wish-list of new sophisticated assets, including longer-range intercontinental ballistic missiles, nuclear-powered submarines, spy satellites and tactical nuclear weapons.
Talks between the US and North Korea have stalled since the collapse of a summit between then-president Donald Trump and Mr 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.
Mr Kim’s government has so far rejected the Biden administration’s overtures for dialogue, demanding that Washington abandon its “hostile” policies first.
North Korea ended a year-long pause in ballistic tests in March by firing two short-range ballistic missiles into the sea, continuing a tradition of testing new US administrations with weapons demonstrations aimed at measuring Washington’s response and wresting concessions.
But there had not been any known test launches for months after that as Mr Kim focused national efforts on fending off the coronavirus and salvaging a broken economy damaged further by pandemic border closures.