Thu, 21 Oct 2021

SEOUL, South Korea: North Korea successfully tested a new long-range cruise missile, which is thought by analysts to potentially be its first nuclear-capable weapon.

The missiles are "a strategic weapon of great significance," reported the Korean Central News Agency.

North Korea's cruise missiles usually receive less interest than ballistic missiles because they are not explicitly banned under United Nations Security Council Resolutions.

However, Ankit Panda, senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, commented, "This would be the first North Korean cruise missile to be explicitly designated a 'strategic' role, which is a common euphemism for a nuclear-capable system."

Developing smaller missile systems is a leading priority, the country's leader, Kim Jong Un, previously stated.

On Monday, the South Korean military said it was analyzing the reports in detail, in coordination with the U.S., but did not comment on whether it detected the North's latest tests, while the U.S. military's Indo-Pacific Command confirmed it was aware of the reports and was coordinating with its allies.

In March, North Korea also tested a new tactical short-range ballistic missile, and in January, it conducted a cruise missile test hours after U.S. President Joe Biden was sworn into office.

Intermediate-range land-attack cruise missiles pose an equal threat to ballistic missiles, said Jeffrey Lewis, missile researcher at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies.

"This is another system designed to fly under missile defense radars," he tweeted.

North Korea media reported that Pak Jong Chon, a member of the Workers' Party's politburo and a secretary of its central committee, oversaw the test, but Kim Jong Un was not confirmed to have attended.

A day after the test, senior U.S., South Korean and Japanese nuclear negotiators met in Tokyo to discuss ending the deadlock with North Korea.

South Korea also recently developed and tested a submarine-launched ballistic missile, becoming the first non-nuclear state to deploy such a weapon.

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