North Korea has announced that it has successfully tested what it described as newly developed long-range cruise missiles over the weekend.
According to an announcement from the Korean Central News Agency on Monday, the country held its first known testing activity with cruise missiles that took two years to develop. The report also said that the flight tests happened Saturday and Sunday and the missiles successfully hit targets 1,500 kilometers (932 miles) away during the testing activity.
The testing activity is meant to expand North Korea’s military capabilities to support Kim Jong Un’s pledge to bolster his nuclear deterrent in the face of U.S. sanctions and pressure which he explicitly reiterated during a congress of the ruling Workers’ Party in January.
Back then, Kim also issued a long wish list of new sophisticated military assets which include longer-range intercontinental ballistic missiles, nuclear-powered submarines, spy satellites, and tactical nuclear weapons. He also said that his national defense scientists were developing “intermediate-range cruise missiles with the most powerful warheads in the world.”
Kim was reportedly absent during the tests, though Kim’s top military official, Pak Jong Chon, watched the test-firings of the cruise missiles. The report also said that he urged the country’s defense scientists to go “all out to increase” the North’s military capabilities.
Kim’s sister also hinted about the resumption of weapons testing to boost its pre-emptive strike capabilities last month, in response to the joint military exercises by the U.S. and South Korean forces. According to her, it was the “most vivid expression of U.S. hostile policy.”
The relationship between the United States and North Korea has worsened since the collapse of a summit between Trump and Kim in 2019 when the Americans rejected the North Koreans’ demand for major sanctions relief in exchange for partially surrendering its nuclear capabilities. Kim has been rejecting Biden’s overtures for dialogue, instead of calling for Washington to abandon its “hostile” policies.
The latest tests come after Kim threw a symbolic parade in capital Pyongyang last week, marking North Korea’s departure from past militaristic displays. The parade showcased domestic unity with anti-virus workers in hazmat suits and civil defense organizations getting involved in industrial work and rebuilding communities instead of missiles and other provocative weaponry.
Experts said that the parade is promoting domestic unity as North Korea wrestles with the U.S.-led economic sanctions on its nuclear weapons and the pandemic border closures which is worsening the country’s problems on its already broken economy, food shortages, and floods in the recent summers.