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North Korea claims it has tested new long-range cruise missiles

According to the Korean Central News Agency, cruise missiles that have been in development for two years were able to strike targets from 1,500 km (932 miles) during flight tests Saturday and Sunday.

North described its missiles as a "strategic weapons of great significance", which meets Kim Jong Un’s call to increase the country's military might. This implied that they were being designed with nuclear warheads in mind.

North Korean state media published photos showing a projectile being fired out of a launcher truck, and an apparent missile that had wings and tail fins moving in the air.

The Joint Chiefs of Staff of South Korea stated that the military was analysing the North Korean launches using intelligence from the United States and South Korea. The U.S. Indo-Pacific Command stated that it was closely monitoring the situation and that North Korean activity shows a continued focus on "developing and posing threats to its neighbors and international community." Japan expressed concern.

Kim doubled down his promise to increase his nuclear deterrent against U.S. pressure and sanctions during a Workers' Party congress in January. Kim made a long list of sophisticated assets that he wanted to acquire, including intercontinental ballistic missiles with longer ranges, nuclear-powered submarines and spy satellites as well as tactical nuclear weapons. Kim said that his national defense experts were working on "intermediate range cruise missiles with some of the most powerful warheads anywhere in the world."

North Korea's weapons testing are intended to develop a nuclear and missile programme that can withstand what it claims is U.S.-South Korean hostility. However, outside analysts also consider them as ways for the country to communicate its political demands to Washington and Seoul.

North Korea's resumption in testing activity is likely an attempt to press the Biden government over the diplomatic freeze following Kim's failure to use his economic advantages during Donald Trump's presidency.

Sung Kim, Biden's special representative to North Korea, received the KCNA report on the tests. He was due to meet with his South Korean, Japanese and counterparts in Tokyo Tuesday to discuss the stalled nuclear diplomacy.

North Korea ended a yearlong pause in ballistic tests in March by firing two short-range ballistic missiles into the sea, continuing a tradition of testing new U.S. administrations with weapons demonstrations aimed at measuring Washington's response and wresting concessions.

However, there had been no test launches in months. Kim refocused his national efforts on fighting the coronaviruses and saving his economy.

KCNA stated that the missiles were tested for 126 minutes above North Korean land, waters and airs before reaching their targets.

"The tests launched showed that technical indices, such as the thrust power from the new turbine-blast engine, missiles' navigation control, and the accuracy of the combined guided mode end guided hit accuracy met the requirements of design. It stated that the effectiveness and practicality of weapon system operation were "excellent".

Kim was not present to witness the tests. KCNA reported that Kim's top military officer, Pak Jong Chon observed the tests and asked for defense scientists to do their best to improve the North's military capability.

Katsunobu Kato, Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary, stated that North Korean missiles with such range could pose a serious threat to Japan's peace and security and the safety of its surrounding areas.

Kato stated that "we are extremely concerned" while also referring to Japan's efforts to improve its missile defense capabilities. While Kato said Tokyo was working closely with Washington and Seoul in order to obtain information about North Korea's recent tests, he said that there was no immediate evidence that the weapons had reached Japan's exclusive Economic Zone.

Kim's powerful sister suggested that North Korea is ready to resume weapons tests while berating the United States for continuing its joint military exercises. She said it was the "most vivid expression U.S. hostile policies."

The North will increase its pre-emptive strike capability, she said. A senior official threatened to counteract the threat with unspecified countermeasures, leaving the allies in a "security crisis."

Allies claim that the drills are defensive, but they have reduced or cancelled them in recent years in order to make room for diplomacy or to respond to COVID-19.

Since the 2019 collapse of the summit between Trump, Kim and the United States, when the Americans rejected North Korea's request for significant sanctions relief in return for partial surrender of its nukes capabilities, talks between the United States of North Korea are stuck. Kim's government has rejected all attempts to dialogue by the Biden administration and demanded that Washington end its "hostile” policies first.

The latest tests came after Kim threw an unusual parade last week in the capital, Pyongyang, that was a marked departure from past militaristic displays, showcasing anti-virus workers in hazmat suits and civil defense organizations involved in industrial work and rebuilding communities destroyed by floods, instead of missiles and other provocative weaponry.

Experts believe the parade was about domestic unity, since Kim is now facing perhaps his most difficult test. North Korea must deal with U.S. economic sanctions over its nukes and pandemic border closings, which are further straining its already fragile economy.

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