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 two long-range strategic cruise missiles, with leader Kim Jong Un praising another successful display of the country’s tactical nuclear strike capability.
The test, which took place on Wednesday, was aimed at “improving the combat effectiveness and power” of cruise missiles deployed on the Korean People’s Army “for the operation of tactical nuclear weapons”, state media reported Thursday morning. KCNA.
It was the last of a series of weapon launches which have heightened tension on the divided Korean peninsula and heightened fears that Pyongyang is 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.
Stressing that the test was another clear warning to “enemies”, Kim said the country “should continue to expand the operational sphere of nuclear strategic armed forces to resolutely deter any crucial military crisis and war crisis at any time and fully take initiative in this,” 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 deal with threats posed by North Korea.
On Monday, North Korean state media reported that Kim had overseen two weeks of guided nuclear tactical exercises, including testing a new intermediate range ballistic missile (IRBM) which was launched over Japan in protest against recent joint South Korean and US naval exercises that involved the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, USS Ronald Reagan.
Error to skip tests
North Korean state media once regularly reported on the country’s weapons tests, but stopped doing so in recent months.
Analysts say that while the recent “deluge of propaganda” isn’t to be trusted, the tests shouldn’t be ignored.
“North Korea’s cruise missiles, air force, and tactical nuclear devices are probably much less effective than the propaganda suggests. But it would be a mistake to call North Korea’s recent wave of weapons testing bluster or saber,” wrote Leif-Eric Easley, a professor at Ewha University in Seoul, in emailed comments. .
“Pyongyang’s military threats are a chronic and aggravating problem for peace and stability in Asia that should not be ignored. Policymakers in Seoul, Tokyo and Washington should not let domestic politics and other challenges such as Russia’s war in Ukraine keep them from increasing international coordination on military deterrence and economic sanctions.
North Korean cruise missiles generally attract less interest than ballistic weapons because they are not explicitly banned by UN Security Council resolutions.
Kim acquired tactical nukes – smaller, lighter and designed for battlefield use – a priority at a key party congress in January 2021 and first tested a “strategic” cruise missile in September of the same year.
Analysts said it was the country’s first such weapon to have a nuclear capability and it was a worrying development because, in the event of a conflict, it might not be clear whether it carried a conventional or nuclear warhead.
The country revised its nuclear laws last month to allow for preemptive strikes, with Kim declaring North Korea an “irreversible” nuclear power, ending the possibility of negotiations over its arsenal.
President Joe Biden unveiled the latest update in the United States National Security Strategy Wednesday, but it contained only one reference to North Korea.
Daniel Russel, the top U.S. diplomat for East Asia under former President Barack Obama, said it was striking, “not only because it moves so quickly beyond a persistent threat and existential, but also because he defines the strategy as ‘seeking sustained diplomacy towards denuclearization'”. ‘, when North Korea has so convincingly demonstrated its absolute rejection of negotiations”.