The missiles are “a strategic weapon of great significance” and flew 1,500 km (930 miles) before hitting their targets and falling into the country’s territorial waters during the tests on Saturday and Sunday, KCNA said. The latest test highlighted steady progress in Pyongyang’s weapons programme amid a gridlock over talks aimed at dismantling the North’s nuclear and ballistic missile programmes in return for US sanctions relief. The talks have stalled since 2019.
North Korea’s cruise missiles usually generate less interest than ballistic missiles because they are not explicitly banned under UN Nations Security Council Resolutions. “This would be the first cruise missile in North Korea to be explicitly designated a ‘strategic’ role,” said Ankit Panda, a senior fellow at the US-based Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. “This is a common euphemism for nuclear-capable system.”
It is unclear whether North Korea has mastered the technology needed to build warheads small enough to be carried on a cruise missile, but leader Kim Jong Un said earlier this year that developing smaller bombs is a top goal.
The two Koreas have been locked in an accelerating arms race that analysts fear will leave the region littered with powerful new missiles.
South Korea’s military did not disclose whether it had detected the North’s latest tests, but said on Monday it was conducting a detailed analysis in cooperation with the United States. The US military’s Indo-Pacific Command said it was aware of the reports and was coordinating with its allies and partners.