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

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SEOUL, South Korea (AP) North Korea says it has successfully tested new long-range missiles developed over the weekend, its first known test activity per month, highlighting how it continues to expand its capabilities. its military amid a stalemate in nuclear negotiations with the United States.

The Korean Central News Agency said Monday that the cruise missiles, which had been in development for two years, demonstrated an ability to hit targets 1,500 kilometers (932 miles) away during flight tests on Saturday and Sunday.

The North hailed its new missiles as a strategic weapon of great importance that meets the call of leader Kim Jong Uns to strengthen the country’s military power, implying that they were being developed with the aim of arming them with nuclear warheads.

North Korean state media published pictures of a projectile being fired from a launch truck and a visible rocket with wings and tail feathers traveling in the air.

South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said the military was analyzing North Korea’s launches based on US and southern intelligence. The U.S. Indo-Pacific Command said it was monitoring the situation with allies and that North Korea’s activity reflects a continuing focus on developing its military program and the threats it poses to its neighbors and the international community. Japan said it was extremely concerned.

Kim during a ruling Labor Party congress in January redoubled his promise to strengthen his nuclear deterrent in the face of US sanctions and pressure, and released a long list of sophisticated new assets, including more intercontinental ballistic missiles. long, powerful submarines, spy satellites and tactical nuclear weapons. Kim also said at the time that his national defense scientists were developing medium-range cruise missiles with the most powerful warheads in the world.

North Korea’s weapons tests are aimed at building a nuclear and missile program that can resist what it claims is US and South Korean hostility, but they are also seen by outside analysts as a way to do so. clear its political demands to leaders in Washington and Seoul. with

The resumption of testing activity in the North is likely to be an attempt to put pressure on the Biden administration over the diplomatic freeze after Kim failed to use his arsenal for economic gain during Donald Trump’s presidency.

North Korea ended a year-long pause in ballistic tests in March by launching two short-range ballistic missiles at sea, continuing a tradition of testing new US administrations with weapons demonstrations aimed at measuring Washington’s response and obtaining concessions.

But there had been no known test release for months after that as Kim focused national efforts on protecting against the coronavirus and rescuing its economy.

The KCNA said the missiles tested over the weekend traveled for 126 minutes along an oval and model-8 flight orbit over North Korean land and waters before hitting their targets.

Test launches showed that technical indices such as the propulsion power of the newly developed turbine blast engine, missile navigation control and the accuracy of the impact directed at the end by the combined steering mode met the requirements of the models. Overall, the efficiency and practicality of the weapons system operation was confirmed to be excellent, he said.

It appears that Kim was not present to observe the tests. The KCNA said Kim’s top military official, Pak Jong Chon, observed the evidence and called on the country’s defense scientists to do everything possible to enhance the North’s military capabilities.

Japanese Cabinet Secretary-General Katsunobu Kato said North Korean missiles with such a range of action would pose a serious threat to the peace and security of Japan and the surrounding areas.

We are extremely concerned, Kato said as he cited Japanese efforts to strengthen its missile defense capabilities. He said Tokyo was working with Washington and Seoul to gather information on recent North Korean tests, but said there was no immediate indication that the weapons arrived within the exclusive Japanese economic zone.

The powerful sister Kims last month hinted that North Korea was ready to resume weapons testing as it issued a statement reprimanding the United States and South Korea for continuing their joint military exercises, which she said that it was the most vivid expression of American hostile policy.

She then said the North would boost its pre-strike capabilities, while another senior official threatened unspecified countermeasures that would leave allies facing a security crisis.

The Allies say the exercises are of a defensive nature, but they have canceled or reduced them in recent years to make room for diplomacy or in response to COVID-19.

Talks between the United States and North Korea have stalled since the collapse of a summit between Trump and Kim in 2019, when the Americans rejected the North’s request for easing major sanctions in exchange for a partial surrender of its nuclear capabilities. The Kim’s government has so far rejected the Biden administration’s proposals for dialogue, urging Washington to abandon its hostile policies first.

The latest tests came after Kim staged an unusual parade in the capital Pyongyang last week, which was a notable departure from previous militaristic demonstrations, featuring antivirus workers in hazmat suits and civil defense organizations involved in industrial work and reconstruction. communities destroyed by floods instead of rockets. and other provocative weapons.

Experts said the parade focused on internal unity as Kim now faces perhaps his toughest test with North Korea battling US-led economic sanctions over its nuclear weapons, pandemic border closures that are causing tensions. further in its rugged economy and food shortages worsened. from floods last summer.

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Associated Press writer Mari Yamaguchi in Tokyo contributed to this report.

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