North Korea says it has tested a new long-range cruise missile

By Min Joo Kim,

SEOUL — North Korea said it successfully test-fired a new long-range cruise missile over the weekend, stoking tensions in a first public testing activity in months amid a prolonged deadlock in nuclear talks with Washington.

The test launches “successfully” took place on both Saturday and Sunday, state media Korea Central News Agency reported Monday.

The test launches took place ahead of a Tokyo trip for President Biden’s nuclear envoy, Sung Kim, who is scheduled to meet with his Japanese and South Korean counterparts this week.

Last month, Kim met with his South Korean counterpart in Seoul, where he said he was ready to meet with North Koreans for talks “anywhere, at any time.”

North Korea has so far not responded to outreach efforts by the Biden administration, which did not signal an intention to offer the sanctions waiver that Pyongyang has been demanding.

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The state media report said North Korea developed the cruise missiles over two years, fulfilling the key defense goals set by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un — which hinted at the possible nuclear capability of the missiles. KCNA described the missiles as a “strategic weapon of great significance.”

KCNA said the test-fired missiles hit the targets 1,500 kilometers (932 miles) away, which puts most of Japan in the missiles’ range.

“The North Koreans have a habit of using the word ‘strategic’ as a euphemism for nuclear-capable,” said Ankit Panda, a senior fellow at the U.S.-based Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

South Korea’s military said Monday that it was conducting a detailed analysis on the missiles in cooperation with the United States. The South’s military did not say whether it had detected the tests earlier.

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The U.S. Indo-Pacific Command said in a statement that U.S. officials are monitoring the reports of cruise missile launches.

“This activity highlights DPRK’s continuing focus on developing its military program and the threats that poses to its neighbors and the international community,” U.S. Indo-Pacific Command said in a statement, referring to North Korea’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

The missiles flew in “pattern-8 flight orbit” for more than two hours over the North Korean land and waters, it said.

North Korea’s leader did not appear to have observed the test, but Pak Jong Chon, the country’s top military official, was in attendance, according to the KCNA.

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Source: WP